ETHIOPIA: ENHANCING POLITICAL PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN

Background: Women are underrepresented in politics

Ethiopia has, in effect, been a single party state until 1991 when EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) came into power. During the 27-year rule of EPRDF the country has transitioned towards a multiparty system and now opposition parties can operate more freely. Most of the parties are, however, still weak and lack in programming and party ideologies. Also, despite the claim of a multi-party system, the political system has been characterized by unprecedented levels of state control in every aspect of people’s lives. This is evidenced by a closed system for actors such as civil society organizations and representatives of various interest groups, violence and repression of alternative points of views, preference to the ruling party loyalists and the elimination of public space for peaceful political participation among others.

Currently, as in early 2019, there are about 62 political parties registered with the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. There are 22 national level and 40 regional level parties. Ethnic based organization of parties still dominate the parties with over 40 parties organized along ethnic lines. Though EPRDF has been able to increase women’s participation in its own party structures; over 40 % of current MP’s are women – there is a great need for supporting women’s civil and political rights and capacity building – especially across party lines. Out of the 60 registered parties only one has a woman holding the position of Chair, Vice Chair or Party Secretary.

Our work in Ethiopia:

Demo Finland’s partner in Ethiopia is the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Association (NEWA). Founded in 2003, NEWA aims to promote equality and women’s rights in all areas of society. The joint project between Demo and NEWA will produce a radio program that gives voices to women in leading positions, challenging the traditional notion that only men can be leaders. There is a new generation of activists and bloggers, which has surfaced during the current more liberal admiration. The project will provide training for social media influencers on the barriers to political participation that women face. The project will map out gender plans for different political parties and provide a material package for training female politicians. The trainings include information on electoral laws, campaign techniques and communications. The trainings will gather women in politics from different parties and allow the participants to  also gain experience of cross-party cooperation.