Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



A recent World Bank report sums up the condition of the "typical" Ethiopian woman as follows: "She is a victim of her situation, without the capacity to initiate change within the quagmire of her poverty, high fertility, poor health and domestic drudgery" (cited in Ethiopia, NPA, April 1995, pp. 14-15).

Generally speaking, most Ethiopian women live in impoverished subsistence. They are expected to marry early, and bear many children. They lack knowledge of hygiene, nutrition or family planning. They live in conditions of very high maternal, infant and child mortality. Lack of education, high fertility, infant mortality, and generally poor health conditions are inter-related factors constraining women's productivity and welfare. Rural women are over-burdened by a variety of agricultural and non-agricultural tasks outside the home and by back-breaking domestic chores, including carrying firewood and water over long distances.

In urban areas, women lucky enough to have employment are predominantly engaged in low-status, low-skilled, low-income jobs, including domestic service and prostitution.

Ethiopian society is unmistakably patriarchal (Gebreselassie, 1988, p. 1). Women's domestic activities are not as highly renumerative and prestigious as men's activities. They do not occupy jobs of high managerial, administrative, technical, or scientific positions (Zewdie, 1991, p. 89). Women constitute about 50 percent of the total population but only 23 percent of the school population. They suffer high rates of maternal death, and 98 percent have no access to family planning programs (Alaro, 1996).