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Ethiopian women movement could revolutionize Ethiopian politics

Jegnit, Ethiopian Women Movement, has the potential to revolutionize conflict recipe of ethnic-based politics of difference and transform it to one that unites Ethiopians as citizens.

Jegnit _Ethiopian Women Movement
Peace Conference at AU
Photo : EBC

November 5,2018

Despite the world is hailing Ethiopia as a country making great forward march since Abiy Ahmed took office as prime minister sometime in April of this year, much is not going well for the internal situation is rather becoming increasingly fragile.

The change, as many Ethiopians seem to understand it correctly, is mostly nominal. Government made no structural or ideological changes. The result is that government is making all the effort to make the “change” fit into the old structure and ideology too to minimize discontent from within the ruling coalition and their support base.

The incompatibility between the two is causing security and political problems for citizens whose individual rights are bartered to group rights, among other things, but the government (and some opposition leaders as well) seem to think that the “challenges that Ethiopia is experiencing are expected during transition time.” Paradoxically, at times government authorities seem to tell Ethiopians that the change, as they call it, is in danger unless they work with the government to ensure that it is not reversed.

Among the few notable and meaningful changes is the revolution like is the unprecedented gender balance in government positions in recent weeks. In addition to the head of state post, ten of the twenty ministerial positions, including powerful ones like the defense ministry and ministry of peace, are now held by women.

Not just that. Last week week, new addition is made in the court system when the parliament approved Meaza Ashenafi as the first female Chief Justice. Today, two females are appointed in the office of the prime minister as the office is being re-organized.

Birtukan Mideksa, a woman who paid immensely in the struggle for freedom and without a doubt a women who is poised to be an icon in the history of Ethiopian women, is expected to arrive in Ethiopia this week after invitation by government and is poised to hold a key position in Election Board.

Last week, newly appointed women leaders launched a movement called Jegnit which could translate to heroines. From the look of it, it sounds like organic idea which aims to make Ethiopia achieve peace through creating women networks across the country to form a solid ground for a culture of peace. It suggests that the movement has a very good grasp of the fragility of the condition in the country.

When the women movement organized its first peace conference today which was also meant to be an official launch, at the African union, as the ministry of foreign Affairs of Ethiopia reported, President Sahle-Work Zewde called on women to play a leading role if the reform in the country is to take root.

She reiterated what she said in her acceptance speech in the parliament: “We should all stand together and safeguard peace as it is the foundation for all things,” as quoted by the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Ethiopia.

As well, it seems the case that there is concrete understanding in the women movement that radical ethnic based political environment has affected women in the country, socially, economically and security wise.

That coupled with the passion to change Ethiopia, experience and knowledge of the leaders in the Ethiopian women movement could certainly revolutionize the way politics is understood and practiced in the country.

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