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World Bank Pledges Support for Reducing Gender Inequalities in Ethiopia

November 29, 2011

  • Ethiopia will soon launch the Women Entrepreneurship Development Project
  • The project is designed to increase women’s earnings and the use of female-owned businesses
  • Removing gender inequalities will also increase economic growth

ADDIS ABABA, November 29, 2011 – Despite alarmingly high gender inequalities in education, health, economic participation, as well as being victims of harmful traditional practices, Ethiopian women have immense potential to contribute to the country’s economy, according to the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development.

According to the report, substantially reducing gender inequalities and eliminating harmful traditional practiceswill increase economic growth but will require concrete action on the part of the government and strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders.

The Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (USD$50 million), a new project the Bank plans to implement over the next five years, seeks to reduce these inequalities by increasing the earnings and employment of female-owned businesses in urban areas, through tailoring financial instruments, developing entrepreneurial skills, and supporting technology and product development.

“The Ethiopian government has a clear aim of removing gender inequalities, and we will do our job in supporting those efforts,” said Greg Toulmin, acting World Bank country director for Ethiopia.

Over the past five years, with support from the World Bank and other development partners, Ethiopia has made substantial progress in reducing inequalities in several areas including:

  • Primary enrollment: The Gross Enrollment Rate in primary education (grades 1-8) was 90 percent from 2007 to 2009, but 93 percent in 2010. The girls/boys ratio for grades 1 through 4 was high, but it worsened from 95 percent in 2006 to 90 percent in 2010. The ratio for grade 5 through 8 improved in that period, from 88 percent to 96 percent.
  • Promotion of contraceptives: The government has undertaken massive advocacy campaigns through public media and community conversation forums and ensured the availability of contraceptives throughout the country. There is now a very high demand for contraceptives in the population, and public acceptance of prevention in family planning has doubled since 2006.
  • Land certification of both husbands and wives: More than 20 million land-use certificates have been issued to six million households with both spouses’ names and photos on the certificate. Women’s registration for land ownership increased significantly, with women reporting improved economic and social status.

Despite successes, statistics paint a clear picture of the gender inequalities that still exist: unemployment among females is three times higher than that of males in urban areas, the wage gap between men and women with similar background for doing the same job is around 50 percent, the share of women without education is almost twice as high as that of men, microenterprises owned by women earn only a tiny fraction of those owned by men, and women face much larger barriers for doing business than men do.
“In addition to the negative societal attitudes toward them, women at micro level face several challenges including lack of access to market, work space, startup capital, and skills training,” said Frealem Shibabaw, entrepreneur, co-founder and former president of the Amhara Region Women Entrepreneurs Association.

In Ethiopia, reducing gender inequalities in education and the labor market alone can add as much as two percentage points to GDP growth every year. Taking into account the economic potential of women in the society, business operations, asset ownership, investment and decision-making, the GDP gains of reducing inequalities are substantial.

In his opening remarks during the World Development Report launch, Toulmin focused on the health sector.

In many parts of the world, he said, including in Ethiopia, too many women are still dying in childbirth. Women lack voice and the ability to participate in decisions that impact them, their families and their societies; in addition, their economic opportunities remain very constrained.

Government figures show that childbirths attended by skilled health personnel remain very low in Ethiopia. Over the past three years, only one-third of all births were attended by health workers, resulting in a high death rate of women during childbirth.

“Simple measures can save many lives,” Toulmin said, “and the World Bank will continue to support Ethiopia in improving its health systems.”