Ever since the nation embraced the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years ago, the government has been working effectively giving due attention to the issue of women, said Seleshi Tadesse, Women Mobilization and Engagement Director with the Women's and Children's Affairs Ministry.
The declaration is designed to back up the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) signed in 1979.
As to the director, around 12 priority areas were identified in the platform that associates women with Poverty, Health, Education/Training, Decision making, Environment, Peace, Children, Media, Human Rights etc. with specific strategic plan for each priority area.
Approached by The Ethiopian Herald, Seleshi said the Beijing declaration allows different bodies to encourage and exercise gender equality and women empowerment. It has also created public movements. The identification of priority areas in the platform has helped Societies and different sectors to work placing focus on them, he added.
Seleshi said, “Ethiopia has improved the Women Development and Change strategy. The platform and the strategic documents were designed in a way that can go along with other signed international agreements. The strategy mainly touches up on the current issues revolving around women.”
Likewise, the strategic documents more of help to employ the international agreements like the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and CEDAW.
He mentioned that aside from the challenges, a progressive performance has been registered in Amhara state in reducing early marriage. In this regard, including the major discussion on women related issues the Women Development Group has played pivotal role, he added.
According to him, Ethiopia has been implementing four major components; capacity building, community evaluations, partners’ engagement and monitoring and evaluation programs designed to diminish early marriage. The government is now trying to institutionalize the program.
The director says; “In Afar State, unsurpassed performance has been observed in containing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). By awakening commitment on those who are in leadership positions, the State has avowedly forbidden FGM over its 14 weredas. The declaration is expected to include the remaining 3 weredas of the State soon.”
Additionally, he said that using the existing set ups and community conversations, the State sensitizes its society members at community level taking on board religious leaders.
On top of all, glaring performances are being registered in the Health and Education sector among the identified priority areas in the declaration though the overall performance has still a long way to go, said the director.
To evaluate the changes that took shape and identify hurdles of implementing the platform, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) has prepared Women Development Index (WDI) twice up on the international criteria, said Seleshi. In concert with the Central Statistics Agency and sector’s professionals, few challenges were witnessed. One of the problems observed was the wrong attitude of Societies towards gender equality, executive bodies, unemployment and women.
He emphasized that the failure of leaders’ of government institutions in supporting and empowering the Women Development Groups is the other obstacle.
“The enormity of the outreach task, quality problem of agricultural and extension services and lack of technologies that take into consideration the burden of women are major hurdles witnessed in implementing the platform,” said Seleshi
He states that although women have now access to and control over resources, there are still few barriers. Compared with other states, Amhara state has best practitioner as it tried to improve its proclamations regarding the issue.
The director remembered that together with the Ethiopian Planning Commission, MoWCA has leveled 28 sectors offices so as to identify the stage where the nation’s sector offices settle in embracing gender mainstreaming and women empowerment in their set ups, policies and strategies.
He briefed that only one sector was able to score very high result while 25 sector offices registered high score and the rest two were medium in their performances.
He said; “The evaluation aimed at identifying the gaps of sector offices in embracing gender equality. Our objective was not passing out grades; it was done with a sense of making an impact on the issue while addressing all of the concerned institutions. The issue of women should not be left for specific body. We think it is everyone’s business so everybody especially the media should participate and must be concerned.”
It is to be recalled that the platform was signed in China on the 4th United Nations International Women’s Forum by 189 member countries.
BY BETELHEM BEDLU