Gender inequalityBy Mihiret Aschalew

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Longstanding cultural norms make life hard for many women in Addis Ababa, including deep-seated chauvinism that is apparent in many street corners.

Yet the authorities make little allowance for verbal intimidation, and it often pays to maintain a dignified silence rather than tackle the perpetrators. Tibebeselassie Tigabu and Mihret Aschalew investigate this depressingly familiar problem.

Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader who led Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987, once said: “We do not talk on women’s emancipation as an act of charity or as a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky.” Do Ethiopian women hold up the other half of the sky? Not according to the streets of Addis. The teenage girl walking in the Giorgis area who was verbally abused by a group of men did not feel like she was holding up the other half of the sky. The harrowing incident happened a couple of months ago, with the men calling her degrading names, bullying her, telling her how she was inappropriately dressed and describing the immoral things they wanted to do to her.

Forgetting that a woman is a person worthy of respect and who has the right to control her body, they lectured and tried to regulate the way she dressed. They looked at her as mere entertainment, yet throughout the insults she remained calm and composed before it was over.

This is not a unique story, rather it is the day-to-day reality for many Ethiopian girls and women on the streets of Addis Ababa. Read more