Ethiopia is located near the Horn of Africa in East Africa. Ethiopia is a country with approximately 120 million inhabitants and is the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. Addis Ababa, with a population of nearly 4 million, is the capital city of Ethiopia and is considered the diplomatic center of Africa.
of Ethiopian women have experienced discrimination or violence.
of Ethiopians live below the poverty line.
of the women living in the Somali region have undergone female genital mutilation.
Ethiopia is a country with two contrasting stories: it has made significant progress in education, healthcare, food security, and economic growth over the past decades. At the same time, the recent years have been challenging: internal conflicts, shrinking civil society space, drought, and increasing inequality pose significant challenges.1,2
Ethiopia’s economic growth has been one of the fastest in East Africa. Nevertheless, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 27% of the population living below the poverty line in 2019. The majority of the population, about 75%, relies on agriculture for their livelihood, but the main sources of economic growth are the service sector and industry.3
Approximately 48% of Ethiopia’s population is under 15 years old. While most children start school, many do not obtain a completion certificate. Only a quarter of children of upper primary school age are enrolled in school.4
The status of girls and women in Ethiopia is quite weak, especially in rural areas. Female genital mutilation and child marriages are common practices, and women have a weaker position in the workforce compared to men.5
Corruption is a challenge in Ethiopia: in 2022, the country ranked 94th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.6
The Status of Women’s Rights in Ethiopia
The status of women in Ethiopia is weaker than that of men, and women’s rights are still a relatively unknown concept for many. A woman’s value is often measured by the role she plays as a wife and mother. Girls and women suffer from harmful practices such as child and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence.
- Approximately 80 percent of Ethiopian women experience some form of discrimination or violence.7
- The legal age of marriage in Ethiopia is 18 years. However, 40 percent of girls aged 20-24 end up getting married before reaching adulthood.8
- An estimated 25 million Ethiopian girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation. Nearly half of girls and women aged 15-19 have been subjected to the practice, even though it has been legally prohibited since 2004. The practice is most common in rural areas and among those with lower levels of education.9
- Around 2.6 million primary school-age children in Ethiopia do not attend school, and more than half of them are girls. Traditional gender norms, heavy domestic workloads for girls, and long distances to school are typical barriers to education.10
Ethiopia has progressive legislation and programs aimed at promoting gender equality, with the goal of ending child marriages and female genital mutilation by 2025. However, the challenge lies not in the legislation but in the persistence of harmful practices, primarily fueled by a conservative social climate and deeply rooted perceptions of women’s roles in society.11
Despite these grim figures, there have been improvements over the years. Female genital mutilation is now less prevalent than in previous generations, and an increasing number of Ethiopians believe that the harmful tradition banned by law in 2004 should be abandoned.
ISF’s work in Ethiopia
Solidaarisuus will begin its operations in Ethiopia in 2023. We will establish an office in the capital city of Addis Ababa.
Our goal is to end violence against women and girls, as well as female genital mutilation, and to promote women’s livelihoods. Our activities will be focused in the eastern Somali state, with its capital in Jijiga.
The Somali state is among the poorest regions in the country, with an unemployment rate reaching nearly 87 percent among the working-age population – although these figures should be approached with some reservation, as they do not include individuals who are self-employed in agriculture, for example. Many families earn a meager living from livestock farming, cultivation, or the sale of firewood and charcoal.
Extreme weather events resulting from climate change make livelihoods and sustenance even more challenging: the Somali region suffers from severe drought, which makes agriculture difficult. On the other hand, in 2023, heavy rains and floods have caused damage to settlements and agriculture.
It is typical in the Somali region for girls to assist in raising younger siblings, participate in household chores, and marry at a young age. Girls are often vulnerable to dropping out of school, and children work to supplement their families’ poor livelihoods.
Female genital mutilation is highly prevalent in the Somali region, with almost every girl and woman aged 15-49 having undergone the procedure. So far, the reduction of cases in the area has been minimal, around 0.4 percent per year.13,14
Solidaarisuus will address these issues in collaboration with local partners.
- Somali regional brief, Unicef April 2022