Women Can Do

The effort to make Ethiopia democratic and just to all is clouded with our inability to hold reasoned arguments with those that espouse differing views, writes Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com), an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker.

Filling out paperwork at the Wereda office of my local district, I had a revealing exchange with a young clerk on gender gap in Ethiopia.

She asked, “Is your mother literate?” To which I answered, “Yes, she has a degree.”

With a look of confusion, the lady looks up and emphasises that she meant my mother.

Taken aback, I respond, “Yes, my mother has a degree from a university.”

Her shock was a reflection of many people that come and go through this busy public office, and how many of the women have been to a higher learning institution. Her reaction reminded me once again of how revolutionary my mother and few like her were, and that I am only the second generation of women to attend college. This abrupt reminder came at a crucial time when many have just graduated from universities across the country.

The struggles of many women and girls to attend school and acquire higher education is a factor that has remained unaddressed. This is merely because it is the female member of a household that is expected to fetch clean water, do the cooking, wash the dishes and clean the house. This is not only the case in rural towns but also in our urban cities.

Have we considered in our own homes the disparity between the encouragement and expectation afforded girls and women in comparison to their male counterparts?

A friend invited me to her graduation party once. She was proud and happy as I had ever seen her. In her time abroad she had blossomed from a shy woman to a confident and assured one. Delighted, she confided in me and the others that attended her ceremony that she plans to pursue her doctoral studies.

Her mother was apprehensive of this decision, as were her sisters.

“How will she find a husband?” they kept musing.

This was two years ago, and my friend has long abandoned the idea of doctoral studies and taken up her family’s advice and is searching for a husband. Unlike men that are rarely told to tame their academic achievements so as not to intimidate a future spouse, she has entered an arrangement that is never worth it.

I was rarely told that my choices would hinder my chances of finding a mate while growing up, yet it would creep up during some exchanges and facial expressions. I distanced myself from these people for they have chosen to expect very little of me or the partner I would choose. A man feeling uncomfortable at a partner’s level of education or pay grade should not have his feelings excused but corrected.

I have found that it is older women who uphold these standards most strictly. This is a result of the painful experiences society has imposed on them. Thus, they want to protect their daughters from challenging a patriarchal system that has become efficient at weeding out those that rail against it.

A degree seems to be the new bare minimum our community can afford a woman these days. But we should not rest until we can be assured that women are given equal opportunity to achieve their set goals. This can be attaining further education, chasing a career or taking risk at a business idea. The presence of women in science, politics, arts and everything in between is invaluable for the human race. Thus far women have been intentionally or unintentionally excluded.

The new generation of women recently graduating are part of the new era of change. This success not only belongs to them but also to the many that have had to push the standards of what is expected of them. Women have reached great heights despite constant restrictions. Yet we still hold hope for a future where achieving a goal is not hindered by gender and is achievable as long as one has the talent and determination.


By Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com)
Hanna is an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker.

Published on Jul 21,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 951]



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