Ethiopia: "There Is No More Effective Tool for Development Than Empowering Women," Eyerusalem Damte

Eyerusalem Damte was born in Harari State and raised in Addis Ababa. She has been serving in the Education sector for more than a decade in teaching as well as a school Principal.

She has received her first degree in Foreign Languages and Literature and she has almost completed her second degree in Gender Studies from Addis Ababa University.

During her stay at various government institutions, Eyerusalem has been an active participant in gender based issues and has played significant role. Currently, she is serving as the Director of Women, Children and Youth Directorate within the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Ethiopian Herald had a short stay with the Director to go through the major activities carried out to support gender based associations and her role in the institution. Enjoy your reading.

Herald: What are the major supports that you provide for gender based associations?

Eyerusalem: We are working to provide support, advocate, create market linkage and offer continuous follow up for associations that are working focusing on gender. Our institution has been working to empower these women organizing themselves to make their lives better in the businesses they are engaged in.

The support we provide varies depending on the gap that the associations have. Apart from creating market linkages with national and international business organizations, we strive to provide women from preparing business plans to providing them with working and displaying areas. So far, we are supporting around five associations including the Center for Accelerated Women Economic empowerment, Ethiopian women in Coffee and Ethiopian Women Trade Association.

Beside our external activities, we are working to empower women employees in our institution. The onsite daycare could be an example in this regard. Moreover, we are exerting efforts to provide scholarship for women to further their education and make them competitive with their male counterparts.

We are also taking part in pushing more women to decision making positions by creating enabling working environment. To this effect, we offer capacity building trainings and exposures. Comparing to the previous years, the participation of women in managerial and team leading role has increased promisingly.

Herald: How many gender based association have been benefitting from your institution?

Eyerusalem: Though we have been providing support for women and youth entrepreneurs and investors, we have around five women association that we are actively supporting in various areas.

Herald: What are the major challenges that the associations encounter in their business?

Eyerusalem: Having a double added role in their households as well as outdoor activities, most women face various challenges which information gap takes the priority. To fill the information gap, our institution provides these associations with the necessary and up to dated information.

Mainly, the information gap lies on issues like incentives packages, as well as procedures that the government devises to empower women. Moreover, women in business encounter challenges related to working and displaying areas. Let alone the problems with market linkages, they spent huge amount of money on house rental which could cover their expense if they were granted with working and displaying areas by the government.

Similarly, most of the associations are raising a problem with regard to capacity building trainings. This is to imply that the capacity building trainings only focus on employees and employers or those who are at managerial level are left out. As a result, they are seeking the concerned bodies to make the trainings inclusive.

Herald: As a Women, youth and children Directorate, what are the measures you have taken to empower your employees?

Eyerusalem: As I briefly mentioned earlier, our women employees are at the top of our priorities. We strive to empower them and bring them to decision making positions. Besides the capacity building, we believe that the way to do that is by making them competent for their position through education.

As a result, we have put efforts to include degree level in the institution scholarship program so as to help women further their education to first and second degree level. Making onsite daycare available is also one part of empowering women as it could help them focus on their jobs and be competitive with their counterparts. We also provide capacity building trainings on various levels.

Herald: How do you value the role of the government in supporting gender based associations?

Eyerusalem: The government has been engaging in various activities to support women in many ways. The incentives package that the government offers to support women is worth mentioning. However, most individual business women would have been benefitted if they were able to organize with peer sectors as it would make the support they get from the government or institution easier.

The main idea behind organizing gender based associations or women associations in the first place is to make the women who have gone through tough path to support each other and echo their voices to become competitive. To this effect, we urge the government to create a system where individual business women get organized.

More From: Ethiopian Herald

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