Mostly in advanced countries the role and contribution of women in leadership and decision making is sensible. We are witnessing that more women than ever are successfully running for office. It is worldwide experience that the number of women is not equal to men in almost every aspect of life. With no doubt, the progress made to improve women participation and their benefit from their respective countries’ socioeconomic outcomes has notably been recognized. In the 2030 Agenda, the world leaders agreed that progress must be accelerated. The vision of the global goals depends on women’s full participation and leadership in all arenas of life. The UN Women is promoting and pushing forward for viable laws and policies that boost the number of women leaders. More fairer and inclusive world without women is unthinkable. Countries need to take concrete measures for women to play their due role in attaining many developmental programs and interventions especially to the Sustainable Development Goals on gender equality, inclusion and accountable institutions.
No exception to Ethiopia. Comparing to the legal provisions and enabling environment the role and participation of women in leadership and decision making is insignificant. The progress in bringing women in leadership is still with blurred gender lens that needs quick adjustment to transform the country in all aspect, women leaders argue.
As to Women Development and Change Strategy, the very reason for the limited representation of women in leadership and decision making the low level of understanding among the public and the women themselves. It highlighted the facilitation of enabling environment for women to enhance their leadership and decision making participation at all levels of the legislative, Judiciary and executive. It also underlined that all the necessary support would be given to women representatives at various levels of councils. The strategy has also indicated that the participation of women in education and training opportunities should be step up at all levels so that their number in leadership and decision making would increase.
The share women have in the legislative bodies is remarkably encouraging. The number of women in the federal parliament has reached close to 40 percent which is exemplary for many countries. In state councils the number of women has been increasing. This progress attests that public trust on women has been increasing.
There are 18 standing committees in the House of Peoples Representatives. Six of them are chaired by women while eight women are serving as deputy chairperson, according to information obtained from the House.
At the executive organs there are three women ministers, over 15 state ministers and there are several women in public structure at minister and state minister portfolio. The number of women ambassadors has shown increase though they are still few.
For Ambassador Dr. Genet Zewdie Founder and Executive Director of Women Strategic Development Center, there are enabling provisions to bring women into leadership mentioning the overwhelming offers of the constitution. The women policy is first policy to be endorsed in the country.
For unfair reasons, though women vividly displayed contribution in all spheres of lives, their representation in leadership and decision making is very much low. She singled out the major reason for the failure for the deep rooted patriarchal sentiment in the country.
Of course, the situation for women has been improved when comparing to where we were before 25 years back. According to her, the number and participation of women in the parliament is quite encouraging. “ Women in the House are vibrant .”
Ambassador Dr. Genet argued that women’s role and participation at all levels of the executive organ especially on the top is unjustified. As to women contribution and account from the total population they denied their right to actively engage in leadership and decision making. Sadly enough, she said the number of women ministers are less or equal in the cabinet 15 years back.
The back and forth move that is influenced by the foggy gender lens. The very reason for the low level of women participation in leadership and decision making is the unjust gender lens, according to Dr.Genet. All the development issues including the national vision becoming one of the middle income economies would be questioned without considering the half population of the country.
Appreciating the achievement gained so far, she said as women’s role and contribution over the past years their status in leadership and decision is almost insignificant that left big assignment for all actors to address the cultural, structural and institutional bottlenecks. Though it is time taking, the gender issue is not a pressing agenda for only an entity rather needs synergy. Most importantly, the role and contribution of women themselves in bringing them in leadership and decision is indispensable, she noted.
Social Policy Planning Effectiveness and Monitoring State Minister at Prime Minister Office Seida Kedir for her part said the number of women in the federal parliament and state councils has increased sharply and this is clearly the manifestation of winning the trust of the public. This is an important step in a country where gender blind sentiment reigns for years.
For Seida the current scenario of women in leadership and decision making status is a result of the struggle made over the past years. “ I believe the number of women in leadership at various levels is encouraging but it tells more to be done.” she argued.
Seida said: “ To my knowledge and understanding there is no problem with legal frameworks because the Constitution has fundamentally changed the scenario in the country. But the deep rooted ill-perception about women has been the driving force for what is still happening.”
For the sluggish pace in brining women in leadership, she insists women have to use every available opportunity for the best of their advantage. In this regard, Seida said : “ Women who have already held office should understand that their current position and authority is symbolic for many others. They have to make their presence meaningful and visible to disprove the myth. “
State Minister for Social and Labour Affairs Tadelech Dalecho for her part said the legal provisions including the Constitution, policy, development and change strategy and the gender mainstreaming in all offices are enabling instruments to bring women in leadership and decision making.
The number of women in the parliament has reached close to 40 percent. They are actively participating in chairing standing committees and over sighting public offices. Their number in state councils is also encouraging.
“ We are witnessing that strong women are coming in the parliament and state councils,” minister Tadelech states.
However, she agrees that the number of women is very much limited at all levels of the executive bodies. Tadelech argued that the number of women ministers is the same as we had 15 years back. “There is a crude generalization labeling women as incapable. This is the result of the defocused gender lens.”
For obvious reason, the issue of women needs concerted efforts of all actors. As to Tadelech, women themselves especially who are in leaders and decision makers should display their capability and mobilize resource in an organized manner to fight the patriarchal order.
The country has enabling legal and policy environment which emanate from the gender sensitive constitution. However, as to the positive outcomes towards ensuring the participation and benefits of women, the pace in bringing them in leadership and decision making is lagging. This is the happening reality. As women leaders argue women need to be given the chance.
Truly, the achievements gained so far in ensuring participation and benefits of women need to be scaled up in making them leaders and decision makers. This definitely requires concerted efforts of the government, the public, all development actors and women themselves to change the patriarchal sentiment to sustain the gender equality, to extricate the country from poverty and improve citizens’ livelihood.
The country is striving to realize the aspirations of the second GTP and the national vision becoming one of middle income countries in 2025. Therefore, the role and contribution of women in realizing these aspirations is vital. Above all, gender equality is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
BY HAILAT BILAT