Setaweet, in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), hosted a policy dialogue on September 30th under the theme of politicizing gender politics. The event featured three papers challenging the Ethiopian federal system and its implications on gender equality.

Tigist S. Hussen, Lidet Taddesse and Rahel Hassen’s paper ‘The Origins of the Original Sin of Federalism: A Feminist Perspective’ was presented by Lidet Tadesse with Tigist S. Hussen responding to questions. They looked at the complex history of gender within Ethiopian political history and questioned why gender wasn’t centered as a major issue within the federal framework. They stated that scholars of federalism should fully consider gender as integral to the process of federalism and not just an afterthought to understand the meaning of diverse identities of individuals or groups. This paper was featured in Writing Our Rights, the Ethiopian feminist journal produced by Setaweet. Selected papers from this journal are available here.

‘Ethiopian Federalism, Women and Politics’ was presented by Dr. Sisay Kinfe who began with an introduction on the concept of federation, representation, and democratic institutions. Her paper argued that the federal government has the responsibility of ensuring gender equality and there is a need to examine whether there is gender bias in federal design and practice leading to loose institutions responsible for safeguarding women’s rights. “Full protection of women’s rights demands transformation of ethnic-based federalism to multinational federalism that does not compromise the protection of individual rights and objectively measurable collective rights. For women to benefit from federalism, women’s movements and feminists need to advocate gender-sensitive approaches,” she concluded.

The final presentation featured Teguada Alebachew’s ‘Why and How the Constitution Impacts Gender Equality.’ She explained the inevitability of constitutional reform at this stage and that a gendered constitutional design must involve women and women’s issues in the drafting and ratification process. Women across the country need to be informed and mobilized to identify gaps and interests to collectively influence the process and content of a new constitution, she said, urging institutions like Setaweet to work towards articulating the needs and demands of women.

This discussion was televised on Arts TV and can be viewed on Youtube. Part one and part two.