WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT by xiuliliaofz



Region: Oromia

Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Bishoftu City Women and Children Affairs Office

World Bank/IDA-ULGDP project
Bishoftu City Administration
Ministry of Works and Urban Development (UDCBO)
RATSON women, youth and children development association
FCE Bishoftu branch
Adera Children and Family Support Association
JECDO Bishoftu Branch

Level of Activity:
City level

The majority of the women in Bishoftu live in absolute poverty. According to research carried out by the
city’s Women and Children’s Affair Office (WChAO) in 2007, most of them are widowed, unemployed,
poor and unskilled. In order to change this, empowering women has moved to the top of Bishoftu’s

The city’s women’s empowerment initiative involved creating jobs and income generating activities and
organizing women’s associations. Women are now engaged in local activities, for example: cobblestone
paving, construction, sanitation, urban agriculture, petty trading, traditional Baltina, greenery,
handicrafts and many more. As a result, jobs were created for more than 4,352 women over the past
two years only.

Women have also taken part in social, political and cultural affairs and have become active in accessing
resources and ensuring that their rights are protected and respected.

Prior to the initiative, women in the city were living in below the absolute poverty line. They clashed
with local administrations with regard to equality in jobs and in economic and political participation.
Although policies and regulations were in place, women were not encouraged to contribute. Indeed,
many were involved in unsafe work, were begging or were exposed to health risks such as sexually
transmitted diseases, HIV and malaria.
The city administration and the regional government tried to improve their situation, but these efforts
were more ‘firefighting’ and less strategic, lacking a system where women’s interests could be
Organizing and capacitating women’s associations was thus considered necessary as was identifying and
addressing the main issues raised by women themselveas.
WChAO arranged discussions and awareness creation programmes with women. Based on these,
around 20,000 people (14,000 women and 6,000 men) became involved in the women’s development.
More than 9,000 and 1,000 women participated in the kebele and city level discussions on SMEs

Women’s empowerment was top of the agenda. The severity of women’s situation and its negative
impact on the short and long-term development of the city was among the most serious issues facing
the city.
WChAO and the city administration, civic organizations, NGOs and the community began to focus on
women’s issues. The City Development Strategy (CDS), for example, was designed to consider the issues
facing women in a sustainable way.

The establishment of a city committee and discussions on women’s empowerment were held weekly in
the presence of the city’s leaders; giving top officials the chance to learn about women’s right.
The city identified two main and related problems: poverty and rights abuses. A committee led by the
mayor (with 10 members from city level offices) was to look at poverty, while the head of administration
and the peace office lead the network formed (35 members from concerned city and woreda level
offices, religious institutions, and CBOs) to examine rights abuses. The same committees were set-up at
the kebele level. Some intervention areas included promoting SMEs, organizing women in local
economic, social, and political development and establishing micro-finance units for women.

The principal objective of the initiative was to improve the living status of women by engaging them in
income generating activities and ensuring their social security.
The initiative capacitates city and kebele level women’s associations to coordinate organized
discussions, involve higher officials of the city administration and convince women to organize
 in SME associations.
Two major committees were formed: the Women’s Economic Improvement Programme committee and
the Network Against Women and Children Abuses. The first committee dealt with projects like
cobblestone development, petty trade, traditional production and urban agriculture while the other one
dealt with crime against women and children and created community awareness on women and
children’s rights. Together with the WChAO, Bishoftu’s mayor played a significant role in leading the
discussions at the kebele and city levels and in convincing the cabinet to enhance women’s

The city administration has supported women financially, technically and administratively. In addition,
activities were regularly monitored and evaluated. Training and technical support were also given to
build the capacity of women in mobilizing resources.
Women have benefited from all the activities carried out in the city, for example through:
market stands built in 2000, the market upgrading programme, greenery, and cobblestone

Many challenges confronted the initiative. First and foremost, it was hard to convince women to engage
in income generating and social activities; due to deeply rooted and long-standing poverty they had
come to accept false ideas concerning gender equality. Even efforts carried out by other organizations in
favour of women were viewed with suspicion. Women looked down on themselves and were reluctant
to participate in issues vital to their wellbeing; it took several efforts to convince women to engage in
cobblestone developments.
The other challenge was a lack of vision, women looking only at short-term benefits. Almost all efforts to
empower women economically, socially and politically met initial hurdles.
A lack of finance was another challenge. Women were much more interested in accessing loans from
micro-finance initiatives than in other economic activities, such as cobblestone production and paving -
they preferred to get market stands and cows. Most women refused cobblestone work, considering it
beneath them. Micro-finance institutions were unable to grant loans to provide cows and there were
very few market stands during the initiative.
During the initial campaign only about 500 women were registered from the kebeles. This time the
learned environment and socio cultural barrier affected women to be easy going to engage cobblestone
development activities.

After registration, many panel discussions ,benchmarking activities and convincing mechanisms were
carried out to demonstrate that women could benefit from cobblestone development .
Thus, while creating awareness WChAO could convince a woman and lastly willingness was reached
with the others.

The ultimate objectives have been realized over the past two years. There are significant differences in
attitudes to women. The place and respect women have in society is also rising. These days, women are
given priority in joining SMEs and many women have got jobs through SMEs organized by the city
administration (1,110 and 2,329 women got jobs in 2000 and 2001 respectively). 913 women were also
engaged in private SMEs in 2001 and 80 women who received small shops in 2000 have significantly
increased their capital. Most women who started working through loans from micro-financing
institutions have paid back their debts and are working with their own capital.
Women in cobblestone trades are also earning better incomes: pavers earn 12 ETB per m2 and some
women pave up 20m2, generating 240 ETB per day. Chisellers earn on average 600-4,000 ETB per month.
These women are experiencing an Improved living style: for example, procuring standardized house
equipments, continuation of their pre abandoned education and they could send their children to
school. These reversed the pre existed gender division of labour in the city.

A women’s traders association was established with 200 women (300,000 ETB capital), 400 female
government workers were organized in associations paying a 2 ETB membership fee per month, a
network of gender club was formed with 16 schools and a nurses’ association was formed with 80

The status of women has improved dramatically and the community is now taking this further: Ato
Negash Haile, for example, has contributed 100,000 ETB for the construction of the Bishoftu Women’s
Centre. Women have benefited through SMEs and have discovered new independence, paying back
loans and upgrading their businesses. Now they are encouraging unemployed women to engage in
SMEs. The city administration is increasing its technical, financial and administrative assistance to
empower women by ensuring their equal participation in all sectors.
NGOs are supporting the initiative technically and financially: the monthly meeting of the Network
Against Women and Children Abuses and organises talk shows financed by RATSON women, children
and youth development organisation.
The efforts of schools’ gender clubs are narrowing the gap between male and female students by
mainstreaming gender, organising tutorials and libraries and providing other learning materials for girls.

Bishoftu’s women have benefited greatly from the initiatives. Women’s associations are enabling
women to raise questions and the network on gender issues and committees are increasing awareness
of women’s rights.
Engaging women in income generating activities is improving their, and society’s, living conditions.

Women everywhere have the potential to bring about change if there is a strong partnership among key
stakeholders. Empowering women in decision-making roles and the commitment of leadership are key
lessons for other cities.
The city has recorded its activities through videos, photos and coverage in the media. March 8, 2008,
(Women’s day) was celebrated in Bishoftu and gave others the chance to learn about Bishoftu’s
women’s empowerment initiative. Moreover, letters of appreciation have been received by the
government and NGOs.

Contact Details:
Bishoftu City Women and Children Affairs Office
Hora Street
P.O.Box: 03
Telephone: +251-1-14-33-58-65
Fax: +251-1-14-33-67-67
Email: fayyoolove@yahoo.com
Contact Person: W/ro Birhane Tsegaye/ W/rt Adanech Adugna

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