Gender equality has been fought for and has been given in the U.S., but in Ethiopia there is great disparity between the two genders. There are strict gender roles which most families here abide by. There is the working father and the stay at home mother. The father is the provider, is sometimes college educated and is seen as the head of the household, while the mother is less educated, responsible for maintaining the house and raising the children. There are between 5-6 children in a family and each gender has different responsibilities. Similar to many developing countries, the majority of females in Ethiopia are burdened with the responsibility of household chores compared to those of their male siblings. These tasks can be any or all of the following: fetching water, cooking meals, preparing coffee, washing clothes, cleaning the house, entertaining guests by serving food and drinks, taking care of the children, etc. Overall, in some way everyone pulls their own weight.
I can count how many times I have seen these gender inequalities both in and outside the classrooms. When I first got here, it really bothered me seeing men sit back and get served by the females. It bothered me that females were submissive and wouldn’t speak their mind. Women and girls are taught to be quiet, to follow the rules and to serve others. It bothered me that some young girls would be failing because they were too busy and they didn’t have enough time to focus on their studies. Growing up in America and especially living with my mom, I thought education was the most important thing and everything else came in second. I thought that there should be an emphasis placed on tutoring and on recreational activities. This post is mostly on a stance on female empowerment.
It’s easy to sit here and point out all the things that are viewed “wrong” by my standards. It’s easy to criticize what I do not know and think one way is the “right way.” But, being here for 2 years is not enough time to really understand what it’s like growing up in Ethiopia. I do not understand any more than my community would understand what it means to grow up in Honduras or in the States. As written in my blog, I had a college professor who often went to do research in Africa say “it’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s just different.”
Living in Ethiopia for the last 5 months has been challenging because it has challenged what I know, my belief system and what I am used to. It’s been hard because it means that I have to spend a lot of time indoors or with others of my same gender. In my opinion, female/male friendships are pretty much nonexistent. If you are spending too much time with someone of the opposite sex, then there is a relationship forming. Back in the States, I have various male friends and I often wonder how different my life would have been had I grown up in Ethiopia. I do not see many females drinking, they are often wearing skirts or long dresses, and there are no means for girls to entertain themselves. Men have table tennis, soccer, running and drinking beer while females have handball and chores. It’s no wonder that girls lack self-confidence and self-esteem.
I am 1 of about 6 female teachers in a total of 28 teachers at my high school. My school is predominately run by males. The absence of positive female role models in the education system in Ethiopia helps to hinder the growth and development of female students. There are so many differences between my male students and my female students. Female students don’t usually speak up in class, they are self-conscious, but when they speak, they have really valuable things to say. Sometimes it gets really hard to see my female students fade into the background. Growing up in my family and with my friends, I was always the shy one and the observer, but I think I have grown out of my shell a little more by trying different activities and exploring on a global level. I may not be able to give my students everything but I can try my best to show them that what they have to offer the world is valuable. I am hoping that I can see a change in my male and female students in the two years of my service.
Why investing in the education of girls is important (USAID 2012)
- 1 in 5 girls in developing countries who enroll in primary schools never finish
- When 10% or more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3%
- Girls who stay in school for seven or more years marry four years later and have two fewer children
- Girls who have not completed basic education contract HIV/ AIDS three times more often
- When women own the same amount of land as men, there is more than 10% increase in crop yields
- Individual earnings increase by 10% for each year of school completed
Note: I have been really busy writing my Educational Needs Analysis (ENA) which basically focuses on the needs seemed a priority by the students, teachers and by the school administrators. I will post the finished report after IST in mid-December. IST or In-Service Training is held in Addis Ababa after 3 months living in site to focus on helping volunteers develop more personal and professional skills to integrate into the community and work to meet the goals of the Education program. With the report written on my community and with a presentation, I will head to Addis with a better sense of what the community lacks and needs and how to use my two years to help my Ethiopian community become self-sufficient and self-reliant after service.