Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations: Ethiopia, U.N. Doc. A/51/38, paras. 134-163 (1996).


134. The Committee considered the combined initial, second and third periodic reports of Ethiopia (CEDAW/C/ETH/1-3 and Add.1) at its 292nd and 293rd meetings, on 19 January, and its 299th meeting, on 24 January 1996 (see CEDAW/C/SR.292, 293 and 299).

135. In introducing the reports, the representative of Ethiopia said that the political situation of her country had not always been conducive to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. At the time of ratification, about 60 per cent of the national budget was spent on the war effort. The war was accompanied by drought and famine that had cost millions of lives. The change in Government in 1991 brought a transition from war to peace, from dictatorship to democracy and from a command economy to a more market-oriented economy. The new Government inherited a situation aggravated by a social crisis, with millions of displaced persons and refugees, unemployment and the destruction of the little social service infrastructure the country had had. In 1994 a new Constitution was adopted and in 1995 a federal Government formed. The representative indicated that the recent political changes had promoted the well-being of Ethiopian women. One important step had been the adoption of the National Women's Policy.

136. The representative pointed out that the situation of women in Ethiopia had been particularly difficult because of the country's economic backwardness and women's disadvantaged access to opportunities. She emphasized that the Government was committed to the advancement of women. A manifestation of that commitment was the setting up of the Women's Affairs Office within the Prime Minister's Office. Several measures had been adopted to address gender disparities. The new Constitution reflected a strong commitment to the principles of the Convention. About 3 per cent of the seats in Parliament were held by women. Women were increasingly represented at the local level and at the community level.

137. The representative stated further that Ethiopia had adopted the Beijing Platform for Action without reservation and was focusing on poverty reduction as the primary critical area of concern. Poverty constituted the root cause of the many problems faced by women. The Women's Affairs Office planned to compile gender-specific statistics to monitor the impact of policies and programmes on girls and women. Apart from the existing political will and commitment of the Government, the achievement of the goals of the national policy for women required substantial financial and material resources. The representative said that a lot was expected from the international donor community.

Concluding comments of the Committee


138. The Committee expressed appreciation for the frank and honest report and the equally frank presentation. The fact that the Minister for Women's Affairs herself introduced the report was indicative of the commitment to the advancement of women in the country. The Committee also appreciated the fact that Ethiopia had ratified the Convention as well as several other international human rights instruments and had accepted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action without reservation.

Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention

139. The Committee identified as major factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention: poverty; deep-rooted customs and traditions; illiteracy; high birth rates; and unemployment. These were compounded by the existence of different kinds of laws, national as well as a variety of customary and religious ones.

Positive aspects

140. Appreciation was expressed for the political will in adopting a national policy for the advancement of women and policies with a gender perspective, as well as for the creation of women's focal points in national, regional and local political decision-making bodies.

141. The Committee commended the Government for the commitments made at the Fourth World Conference on Women at Beijing in September 1995.

142. The Committee welcomed the high percentage of women at the local government level.

143. The Committee welcomed the affirmative action efforts for women at the university level.

Principal subjects of concern

144. The Committee noted with concern that neither the combined report nor the addendum followed the Committee's general guidelines, which had created obstacles to constructive dialogue between the Committee and the State party.

145. The Committee felt that if the areas of competence of the mechanisms set up for changing the status of women were not clearly defined and if proper financing was not secured, initiatives could be blocked.

146. While commending the translation of the Convention into Amharic, the Committee was nevertheless concerned about the insufficient dissemination of the Convention in view of the number of other languages that were also spoken in the country.

147. In addition to the deep-rooted cultural obstacles, the Committee was concerned with still existing discriminatory laws at the national level, as well as persistent discrimination in the family.

148. Great concern was expressed by the Committee about the issue of widespread female genital mutilation as well as the incidence of violence against women and girls and the insufficiency of measures to eradicate it.

149. The Committee was concerned about the prevalence of prostitution and male promiscuity, which increased the spread of AIDS. Early marriage was also a great concern to the Committee.

150. The Committee noted with concern the low representation of women at the higher decision-making levels and was doubtful about the effectiveness of programmes formulated and adopted with the involvement of women at those levels. It expressed its doubts about the efficiency of any measures to eradicate poverty as long as the percentage of women in Government remained as low as it was at present.

151. The Committee expressed concern about the high level of illiteracy, the high school drop-out rate, sexual harassment of girls at school and the lack of vocational training programmes.

Suggestions and recommendations

152. The Committee suggested that subsequent reports follow the Committee's general guidelines for reporting.

153. When resources are available, the translation of the Convention must be in as many local languages as possible so that it may benefit many people.

154. The Committee suggested that a review of all existing customary laws in ethnic groups be carried out in order to evaluate them as to their substance and their compatibility with international conventions and national legislation.

155. Awareness programmes and legal measures must be put in place urgently to abolish the practice of female genital mutilation and all other such practices that discriminate against women. Those who perform female genital mutilation must be helped to find other sources of income.

156. Training programmes should be put in place aimed at rehabilitating prostitutes and equipping them and other women with skills that will provide an alternative source of income.

157. The Committee recommended that there be an increase in the number of women in decision-making positions in public administration and that programmes be developed to encourage women to take decision-making positions.

158. Measures, including temporary special measures and programmes, must be adopted to give girls and women equal access to high quality education and training.

159. The age of marriage must be the same for boys and girls.

160. The Committee encouraged the Government to ensure access by women to primary health services, particularly reproductive health, family life education and family planning services.

161. There must be an intensive programme to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. Infected women and men must be guaranteed equal enjoyment of their human rights.

162. The Government must seek international support for poverty alleviation and educational programmes and for assistance in the implementation of the recommendations in paragraphs 155, 157, 159 and 161 above.

163. Every effort must be made to attain a stable and peaceful environment in order to reconstruct the country and create the conditions necessary for the sustainable development and the integration of women.

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