Women's economic rights at risk in Ethiopia

Chiara Capraro | Aug 07, 2017
Woman sewing on an industrial sewing machine in Ethiopia
When women lack financial independence, they are more likely to face violence and have less say in the decisions affecting their day-to-day lives. But whilst paid work is critically important for women to exercise control over their own lives, there are other aspects of women’s economic rights that go beyond financial independence: the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food, housing and healthcare. 

Working with women's rights movements

Over the past few months, we have been consulting with over 25 women’s rights organisations as well as trade unions and civil society organisations in Ethiopia and Uganda, to learn more about the situation of women’s economic rights in these countries. While women’s rights movements are working to provide women with reliable sources of income, they face challenges in their gains. 

In Ethiopia, the government’s investment in the manufacturing sector is opening up job prospects for women to work in the garment and footwear industry. Huge industrial parks are springing up around the capital, Addis Ababa, ready to employ hundreds of thousands of women.

Exploitative conditions for women

Globally, women represent 80% of those working in the garment industry, facing low pay and sexual and other forms of harassment. Many lack the right to safe working conditions and to social protection such as sickness and disability pay and paid maternity leave, as well as pensions. So, whilst the industry offers women some prospect of earning their own money, conditions are exploitative

A solution in Ethiopia

Proving there are alternative ways of working that are fair and effective, women-led cooperatives are successful in various sectors such as coffee, honey and textiles. They are making a difference in the lives of many rural women and girls in Ethiopia, exporting their goods globally and sharing their experience with other women-led cooperative movements. These cooperatives in Ethiopia are so strong that they have established their own bank, ENAT Bank, to overcome the challenges their members face when trying to access credit.

As we grow our work on economic rights at Womankind, we are committed to supporting women’s rights movements to tackle the big economic challenges that shape women’s lives, to make the economy work for women. 

Read our briefing on women and the economy here.

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