Throughout history, women, half of the Ethiopian population, were not entitled to equal rights, powers and opportunities with their counterparts and the discriminatory socio-cultural beliefs and practices had hampered their participation and benefit from country's development.
Cognizant of the fact that without women's equal engagement and treatment Ethiopia's vision of becoming a middle-income economy cannot be attained, the current government has taken exemplary measures by formulating and implementing country's first women's policy, strategy and package.
The government has also given key priority to increase women's economic participation in both the first and second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) periods and designed its policies and plans in a way to ensure and maximize women's participation and benefits.
According to Tsige Tadele, Adviser to the State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, the government has attached utmost priority to address women's social, economic and political challenges and implementing various programs in the view to support low-income women and girls achieve self-reliance.
Ethiopia's vision of eradicating poverty and becoming a peaceful and prosperous country could only be attained when women play active role in the development undertaking of their nation while fully empowering them, she elaborated.
"Acknowledging the fact that addressing women's problems should not be left to the government alone, efforts have been exerted to create enabling environment for pertinent stakeholders to play a pivotal role in improving women's livelihood whilst giving local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the utmost priority."
Furthermore, the Ministry is closely working with local NGOs and support them in their engagement of empowering low-income women and girls to play an active role in Ethiopia's development.
Founder and Director of Organization for Women in Self Employment (WISE), Tsige Haile shared the sentiment echoed by the Adviser. She noted that the government has offered uninterrupted support for the Organization, manifested through allocation of land free of lease.
In the plot of land allotted to it, WISE built two well-equipped three-storey buildings for training and products display and currently it is giving training for 250 women in Basic Business Skills (BBS), Leadership and Management as well as Health Education and other related fields. The government has also facilitated conducive conditions for WISE to recruit new women and provided it license and plots of land for training purposes in a bid to enable the organization to be among the major actors in ensuring women social and economic empowerment.
Tsige indicated that since its establishment in 1998, WISE has been making significant undertakings to support low-income self-employed women and girls in Addis Ababa to be engaged in home-based production and micro-scale trading activities.
During the past 20 years, over 38,000 women have been organized in nine sub-cities of Addis Ababa and have been offered various training and capacity building opportunities. Through the provision of financial services, the targeted women were able to initiate, expand and engage in their preferred line of micro-enterprise operation.
"A loan of around 290 million Birr has been disbursed while close to 90 million Birr was mobilized as savings. The highest loan a single woman can take from a primary cooperative and union has reached 150,000 and 300,000 Birr respectively."
Marketable technical/vocational skills training are also offered to the young women. Moreover, growth-oriented women receive business development services through which their innovation and growth will develop.
Low-income women and girls and, by extension, their family members and others, obtained employment opportunities from which they are able to draw income in a sustainable manner. The training programs, in this regard, focus on nurturing female youth who strive to become self-employed as well as employable.
According to the Director, WISE has formed strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations to create a platform to share and promote good practices. Through this, the expansion of outreach in other parts of the country where the organization is not operational.
Despite the success WISE has brought in changing the livelihoods of women and maximizing their social and economic empowerment, financial constraints has by in large limited its capacity. Several embassies, donor groups and international organs, in this regard, provide the organization with financial and material support to supplement its operational cost.
The Director indicated that many foreign missions and development partners have been closely working with the organization to build its capacity and access more women.
Recently, the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) donated to WISE's 'Empowerment of 200 Ethiopian Women Project'. The donation meant to provide a six-month capacity building training and loans for women, most of whom repatriated from Middle East countries and cover the training cost, Tsige said.
UAE's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ghazi Abdullah Almahri expressed his country's keen interest to fund such projects that offer professional training for low-income women and girls in the view to support them establish their own income-generating businesses.
Besides the strong diplomatic and economic ties, various UAE-based charitable associations have been playing active role in supporting Ethiopia's development projects.
UAE in Ethiopia has funded the construction of 60 water wells in six states that enable to provide potable water to more than half a million people. The wells are mainly beneficial for rural women, the most unprivileged group of the society, in lessening their burden of traveling huge distances to fetch water.
Ambassador Ghazi affirmed UAE's firm stance to strengthen its diplomatic and economic relations with Ethiopia through people-to-people ties, and to support more projects in the future. "The United Arab Emirates has always backed Ethiopia's development projects that would ensure the benefit of the larger community such as women and we are committed to support similar initiatives in the future. My country also wants to share the success it has gained in women empowerment with Ethiopia."
The government of Ethiopia has created strong partnerships with other embassies, international organizations and donor groups to facilitate conditions for them to play a meaningful role in maximizing women's benefits.
Praising the support UAE has made to women's empowerment, the Advisor called on other stakeholders to follow their track in backing low-income women and girls to have better lives. Through consolidating this meaningful collaboration of the government, private sector and development partners, Ethiopia's vision of ensuring women's all-rounded participation and benefits is possible to come true.