P4P medium Grant 

“The Role of Women Parliamentarians in Politics: Challenges and New Opportunities in Ethiopia”

Mahlet Fitsum (PI), Esayas Tefera (Co-I), Elizabeth Mengistu (Co-I)

Women comprise more than half of Ethiopia’s population, but the number of women participating in the country’s political life has historically been limited owing to lack of empowerment and inclusion by political parties. Consequently, they have been isolated from social, political and economic decision-making processes. This experience of marginalisation in political and public life has its corollary in wide-ranging gender-based violence against women and girls. The current government reports that 38% of all parliamentarians are now women – tellingly, they all belong to the ruling party, are not necessarily representative of poorer women and their concerns, and often fail to campaign on issues that affect women.  The relationship between women and democracy is weak and poorly understood, including amongst women themselves. This research looks at the challenges that women face when they do in fact try and participate in politics, as well as exploring how mass culture including television, radio, movies, documentaries, and advertisement influences views on gender and attitudes to women in society. The team also seeks to advocate, through the present research, for improvements in women’s participation in politics both quantitatively and qualitatively.

 About the research team

Mahlet Fitsum holds advanced degrees in Law and is a practising lawyer, researcher, gender specialist, human rights and democracy expert. She regularly appears on television and radio, and works with a range of local and international civil society and non-government organisations on these issues. She has also worked with the Ethiopian Parliament as a trainer on “Women and Leadership and Democracy”. 

Esayas Tefera  is a social anthropologist with a Masters degree in Public Policy and Management. He has been  actively engaged in the civic and political domains as a research consultantrelating on political and social issues affecting Ethiopia’s youth with organisations such as UNICEF, the British Council and the Ethiopian Development & Research Institute.

Elizabeth Mengistu is a graduate in political science and international relations as well as holding a Masters degree in Ethiopian Literature and Folklore Her work focuses on imoroving socio-political participation, particularly amongst women and youth, and she has has produced radio programmes on society, culture and the arts, and she now coordinates projects relating to women and children.