In Verisk Maplecroft’s Women and Girls’ Rights Index 2017, Ethiopia is ranked 40th out of 198 countries (where ranks closer to one denote greatest risk). This means that businesses and investors are at ‘high risk’ of association with practices that discriminate against, or otherwise infringe upon the rights of women and girls.
Despite legal protection for women and girls’ rights, enforcement differs regionally, and girls in many areas remain vulnerable to abuses such as early marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Those who marry young have limited access to education and many suffer adverse health impacts, such as mental health issues and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. UNICEF reports that girls who are married are 50% more likely to have a sexually transmitted disease than their unmarried, sexually active peers.
In rural areas, families with limited resources will prioritise the education of boys. As a result, women have limited employment opportunities. While many work in low-skilled jobs in agriculture, including coffee farming and floriculture, women without formal education are at risk of human trafficking. Despite the enactment of a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in 2015 banning citizens from travelling to the Gulf to work as domestic workers, hundreds of thousands of women are believed to still be in domestic servitude in the region. However, as the anti-trafficking legislation indicates, there has been some progress over the last years and this positive momentum is likely to continue.
The percent of women completing education and entering the workforce is growing. According to the World Economic Forum, 79% of women are in the labour force, compared to 90% of men. However, women are more likely to be in low-skilled, junior positions. For example, many women are employed in factories in the textile industry in jobs that have high turnover rates due to the low pay and limited development opportunities. While this sector is growing, women’s comparatively lower educational levels means their role in the garment sector is likely to remain constrained to low-skilled, low-paid positions.