Country insights


In Verisk Maplecroft’s Women’s and Girls’ Rights Index 2016, Ethiopia is ranked 23rd out of 198 countries (where 1st denotes the greatest risk). The index categorises the country as exposing investors to an ‘extreme risk’ of association with practices that discriminate against, or otherwise limit or infringe the rights of, women and girls.

Women and girls’ rights are legally protected in Ethiopia. However, protection of these rights differs regionally, and girls remain vulnerable to abuses such as early marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). According to the World Bank, as of 2011, 41% of women aged between 20 and 24 were married before the age of 18.[i] This rate varied according to region, but in Amhara for example the median age at first marriage was 14.7. The vast majority of married girls in this region did not consent to their marriage. Young wives have limited access to education and healthcare.[ii] In 2015 the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported that only 14% of women aged 25 and over had completed primary education, compared with 37% for men.[iii] This highlights the limited access to education for girls in Ethiopia.

Low levels of educational attainment have significant negative impacts on girls’ future employment. For example, statistics show that 58% of women were employed in 2011, compared with 89% of men. Where women do successfully find employment, their ability to rise to upper levels of management is constrained by low levels of educational attainment. Nonetheless, the textile industry represents a major source of employment for women. Ethiopian textiles are eligible for duty free access to the US market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and employment in textile factories is likely to increase. The sector has been identified by the government for its growth potential. However, in the absence of equitable access to education, women’s role in the private sector is likely to remain limited to low-income positions.

[i] World Bank, 2015, Gender Statistics – Women who were first married by age 18 (% of women ages 20-24). Available at

[ii] International Centre for Research on Women, 2014, Improving the lives of married adolescent girls in Amhara, Ethiopia: A summary of the evidence. Available at

[iii] World Economic Forum, 2015, Gender Pay Gap Report 2015 – Ethiopia. Available at