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Annex B Region-specific customary practices and laws.

In order to understand the customary rules and traditions practiced in the regions, participatory rural appraisals were conducted by local consultants in two to four rural communities in five regions: Amhara, Oromiya, Afar, Gambella, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (the southern region). The authorities in each region identified the sites based on select criteria. The Amhara region used criteria of population size, religion, ethnicity, vulnerability to drought, economic potential, and socioeconomic status of women. The Oromo region used ethnic diversity, economic status, and religious and cultural practices. In Afar the regional president's office, in collaboration with the local women's affairs bureau, selected communities based on cultural differences. The southern region selected sites based on ethnic and cultural representation and women's social and economic rights. Gambela used ethnic homogeneity, remoteness, and high prevalence of primitive practices that were harmful to women.

This annex summarizes the findings of the participatory rural assessments. The findings, however, do not portray the situation of all women in the country and may not even represent the situation of all women in each region. In a country with so much ethnic and cultural diversity, these findings merely describe practices in some of the poorest communities in the regions. Nevertheless, they provide a starting point from which to begin understanding the general status of some of the poorest women in Ethiopia and suggest directions for future action.

Each region-specific section summarizes the key regional characteristics, the socioeconomic status of men and women, and the impact of customary practices on women in the community (Central Statistical Authority 1994). Each section also describes the ethnic groups where these differentials have significant implications for the social status of women. It focuses on the role of women in different modes of production, the division of labor within the household, women's access to and control over property, and any impact that changes in production patterns have on women. It briefly touches on land use, access to community resources, and women's access to land.


Amhara, bordering Sudan in the west, encompasses approximately 17 percent of the country's total area. It houses 26 percent of the national population, with women accounting for half. More than 90 percent of the population live in rural areas: 91 percent speak Amharic, and the remaining 9 percent are mainly Oromos, Agewos, and other minorities. Orthodox Christians and Muslims constitute 81 and 18 percent of the population, respectively. Agriculture, largely at the subsistence level, is the main source of income and livelihood of more than 90 percent of the population and is rarely supported by nonfarm activities; 32 percent of the land is under intense cultivation.

All four areas studied in the PRA are drought prone and include: Dimtu Chekorso in Artuma Jilla wereda in the Oromiya zone; Jarso PA in Guba Laffso wereda, in the North Wollo zone; Wollech PA in Sekota wereda, in Wag Hamra Zone, about 700 kms away from Addis; and Worreb PA in Bahar Dar Zurai wereda, in the West Gojjam zone. The cropping pattern is dominated by cereal crops (teff, sorghum, maize, barley, and millet), followed by pulses (beans, peas, chick peas, lentils, and oil seeds). Two of the regions also grow pepper as a cash crop. Generally, in all four areas, crop production is decreasing and becoming unreliable due to erratic and uneven rainfall. In particular, the reduction in rainfall has stunted the growth of cotton and pepper, which are grown by women for both domestic use and income. Pest infestation has also stopped the production of millet, chick peas, and sesame. Landholding varies between 0.25 and 1.00 hectare per household.

Monogamy is the norm in the three communities in which Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion. In the northern Oromiya zone, the community is predominantly Muslim, and households are mostly polygamous. Parents arrange their children's marriages; girls are betrothed at birth, and boys are betrothed at less than five years of age. Generally, the wealthier the family, the lower the age of the children at marriage. Children of poorer households seem to have greater control over the choice of spouse, although more remain unmarried because they are too poor to provide the necessary macha (wedding gift).

In the Oromiya zone, in polygamous communities, there is no significant dowry or bride price system, so the bridegroom does not have to provide clothes and jewelry for the bride or voluntary gifts for her parents. The "girl's beauty, virginity, and physical readiness for marriage" are important factors in marriage. In North Wollo, land, a prerequisite for marriage, is provided by the bride's parents. Therefore, poorer households show a higher incidence of unmarried women older than 20. Among this community, these women often migrate to urban areas or, in a few cases, live as single mothers in their village. When a woman gets divorced, regardless of the wealth of the household, she leaves the house with only the wedding gifts provided by her parents.

In Wollech, the criteria for marriage is the wealth of the parents. Parents of bridegrooms need to provide livestock, land, and crops. However, the girl's parents must also own livestock similar, both in type and number, to those that are gifted. In North Shewa, for example, couples receive marriage endowments from both sets of parents. Thus, if the father of the bridegroom promises an ox, the father of the bride follows up with a cow, always something smaller than what the bridegroom's family provides. These gifts are counted and recorded in front of the witnessing elders. Upon divorce, this register is used to identify the separate property of the spouses. "Over-aged" girls continue to live in the villages and may arrange marriages for themselves, in which case traditions do not apply. In Worreb, wedding gifts should be exchanged equally. However, the bridegroom's parents provide cash for the engagement (ejmensha), if they accept the marriage.

Inheritance rights as customarily practiced are similar in all the Christian communities, with both men and women having equal rights to property. Unmarried children have the right to take their marriage gifts from their parents' property before it is shared equally among the children. In the Oromiya zone, among the Muslims, women have no inheritance rights to land unless they have no brothers or lost both parents before getting married. Women have rights to only one-third of other property. Unlike the other areas, widows in Oromiya only have a right to one-eighth of the deceased husband's livestock, and, if they chose, they may be inherited by the in-laws or the husband's close relatives.

Customarily, in all the communities studied, a married woman controls household utensils, crops, dairy products, chickens, eggs, and some garden trees. Women exercise control through decisionmaking in these areas. Men control resources such as land, oxen, mules, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, houses, guns, farm implements, and trees. The level of a household's wealth is determined by the number of livestock, followed by the share of land. However, livestock ownership seems to be declining due to inadequate land for grazing, changes in climate, lack of access to water, and prevalence of disease. In some areas, livestock is being maintained only for agricultural use and for milk production, causing women's income to decline, since livestock products, particularly milk and butter, are the only resources under their control.

In the four communities surveyed in Amhara, only three-fourths of the households have access to land, with female-headed households constituting one-fourth of the landed households. Single and divorced women are landless. However, the size and quality of landholdings vary significantly between male- and female-headed households. The difference in size has been attributed to the absence of a second adult in the family. Women feel that female-headed households with land have better access to credit, extension services, and crop income and are accorded higher social value, even to the extent of increasing their opportunity for remarriage. In Jarso, North Wollo, land is a prerequisite for marriage. The heads of household with bigger families are perceived as being better off because they have access to larger landholdings.

As is common in traditional societies, women normally engage only in certain activities. Women are the only ones to generate income through the following activities: hair making, spinning, basket weaving, processing and sale of local drinks, pottery making, sale of cow dung, and fetching of water, while male activities include weaving, blacksmith, plowing, mowing and disposing of trash for others, livestock trade, construction of huts (except in Afar and Gambella), and leather making. Common activities include weeding, harvesting, selling firewood, terracing land, watering nurseries, and carrying stone. Also, women's activities generate less income than men's and are both tedious and "back-breaking." The participatory rural assessment also indicates a differential in wage labor, with women getting birr 1 to birr 2 less than men for the same work. The variation in wage payment also exists between boys and girls. In one zone, while a boy earned about birr 50 per month tending cattle, a girl earned birr 15 tending children, cooking, and fetching water and firewood. Such income-generating activities are mainly performed by poorer households. Married women from wealthier households are rarely involved in income-generating activities. Women, themselves, identified a number of constraints to improving their productivity: lack of male labor, seed, oxen, access to credit, ready cash, time, and skills.

Credit and savings in all communities are linked to wealth. The access, amount, season, sources, and purpose vary among households and between women and men. Naturally, the economically better-off households have greater capacity to save. Savings are normally in the form of cash, livestock, or crops, including trade or interest (both in cash and in kind). Savings are relatively lower in households headed by females. Better-off households normally require credit for improving livelihoods and enhancing income, while poorer heads of household, including women, require credit for food, clothing, medical treatments, oxen, and seeds. Female heads of household have greater access to credit than married women, because the traditional belief is that married women should not obtain credit in their own name. Poor households have little or no access to credit, with single women being the most constrained. In all communities, credit sources are limited and located far from the immediate locality.

Disputes are resolved through indigenous mechanisms in the community in the Oromiya zone. The kadi settles disputes and applies the sharia. Upon divorce, women receive only their clothes and wedding gifts, including the nikah--the amount agreed during the marriage as compensation to the wife in case of divorce or the husband's death. In the other three communities, both customary and formal laws are used to settle disputes. Minor disputes are resolved by leaders or neighbors, and major disputes are referred to the judicial process. However, women in the North Wollo zone do not resolve disputes through the formal judicial process.

In all communities in Amhara, different types of organizations are important to both men and women. Men and women, usually in a small neighborhood, participate in woberra or debo, which are labor-sharing arrangements. Membership is open to anyone who can provide food and drink for the laborers. This grouping provides female heads of household with access to male labor and assistance in constructing huts and accomplishing time-consuming tasks such as weaving. However, such institutional and informal arrangements are becoming less common due to the increase in paid labor and reduction in the capacity to provide food and drinks. Maheber and senbete are religious-based groups that meet on Sundays for food and drinks. Women form mahebers but rarely are involved in senbetes. The mahebers, sometimes, act as sources of credit. Iqubs are found only in one community as a saving institution for poor men and women who are engaged mainly in day labor, the sale of firewood, and making of areke.


Oromiya region accounts for about 34 percent of Ethiopia's total land and contains 35 percent of the overall population; the majority (89 percent) live in rural areas. The region is inhabited mainly by the Oromos, who account for 84 percent of the population. Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions, each being practiced by almost half the population. Infant mortality rates stand at 118 per 1,000 live births, and the under-five mortality rate is 173. The literacy rate is 30 percent for men and 16 percent for women.

The four communities that were studied through the PRA include: Fogie Kombolcha kebele in Gao Dale wereda, in Gimbi Zone; Biftu Direma kebele in Goru Gutu wereda, in East Hararge Zone; Mugayo kebele in Negele wereda, in Borena Zone; and Bulchana kebele in Kofele wereda, in Arsi Zone. In three of the four sites, communities were formerly pastoralists. However, war or drought has forced the population to settle and engage in agricultural production. Their livestock herds have declined significantly, and much of the remaining livestock has been sold to purchase grains. Most households engage in limited-technology agriculture, although some households use an ox for plowing. Where oxen are available, communities plant barley, wheat, and teff; otherwise, they plant maize; some have adapted to enset.

This change in the production pattern has adversely affected women. Women harvest, process, and prepare enset, which is time-consuming and tedious. They participate in all agricultural activities except plowing with oxen. They are responsible for processing, marketing, and allocating dairy products for domestic consumption. Women in the poorest communities collect and sell firewood to supplement their income. Women prepare the local drink fella) and food for the people involved in harvesting.

Nevertheless, all communities are highly dependent on livestock, which is an important status symbol, and all major events--credit, security, prestige, and sense of well-being--revolve around livestock. One community even includes livestock in the definition of "household." Usually women own only one cow and any of its off-spring, although they seem to have access to all the milk produced by their husband's cattle.

Over the past three generations, the community in Bulcahna, for example, has turned from being predominantly pastoralist to producing enset. Enset production is mainly the responsibility of women, who work on enset farms, cutting and processing, fertilizing with cattle dung, and preparing meals for those who help their husbands. All women interviewed see pounding, grinding grain, and processing enset as the most demanding activity within the household. Marketing of enset also imposes heavy demands, with women in the communities studied having to walk about 25 kilometers each way to the market. Transportation is also a problem, because enset is wetter and heavier than grain, and women cannot use donkeys on the hilly terrain. The richer women use their husband's horses when possible.

Eating patterns have also changed, with breakfast and lunch being replaced by hojja--a mid-morning meal of boiled milk and leaves-- and supper in the evenings. In coffee-growing areas, where four varieties of grain are harvested throughout the year, households work in the field at least 10 months of the year. Cultivation of maize and enset also increases the amount of time spent preparing and processing food and reduces the food supply, which means that women have to find other means of supplementing their household's dietary needs. Sometimes,, even women with access to grinding mills arc unable to use them, because they have time to pound maize only in the evening when the nulls are not available.

Two of the communities interviewed are in drought-prone areas, and many cattle have died. One man stated that if his wife had not been able to collect fuelwood, the family would have died. The normal period of stress is between harvest from May to September. As a coping strategy, some communities gather a weed {mererre), growing in swampy areas, which, if eaten in excess, causes swelling and diarrhea and eventually can be fatal. Drought has also affected cropping patterns according to the women interviewed.

In all four sites in Oromiya, the sera gada system applies, with its own constitution and hierarchy of law enforcement:

* Men control all assets and resources.

* Inheritance is through the sons.

* Property is kept in the same clan.

* Men completely control women's labor.

* Polygamy is the norm, and it is difficult for a woman to divorce a man, but not vice versa.

* Women cannot vote or be elected to the council of elders or hold decisionmaking positions.

The definition of women's property is similar in these communities and is limited to livestock and other food products within the household (see box B.1). The system of dowry is prevalent, with daughters receiving their share of the property upon marriage. This seems to be restricted to cows, gourds, pots, and baskets--some of which have no economic value but do have significant cultural value. If the marriage ends in divorce, women can claim any property brought to the marriage (see box B.2). In some communities, women can inherit their mother's jewelry.
Box B.1 Status of Women under
the Gada Principles

When men in Arsi were asked if single women
could obtain a landholding, they were surprised
at the question (participatory rural appraisal in
Oromiya, 1997). They replied, "Why would a
woman need land? She would not be able to cultivate
it." When women were asked the same question,
they said, "This question has never been

A daughter cannot inherit her parent's property
because her wealth is at her husband's home (participatory
rural appraisal in Fogie Kochamba,
1997). She cannot inherit her husband's property
because it belongs to the clan. If she is widowed
and has children, her brother-in-law inherits her
husband's property, wife, and children, whether
or not he already has wives. Only if she has a
grown son, can she keep the land for her son. If,
as a widow, she has no children, she is chased
out of the village. Thus, women, regardless of religion,
marital status (monogamous or polygamous),
or household wealth, do not own land. The
extent of women's control over resources is confined
to livestock products, which they sell to buy
household products.

Box B.2 Divorce and Settlement

When asked to list the property that a woman
would get upon divorce (participatory rural appraisal
in Fogie Kochamba, 1997), two men said:

* Part of the grain in the granary (if there is any)

* Some cash, if the husband has it

* Sometimes cattle, if the man is a gentleman.

Polygamy is common in all four communities, both among poor Muslims and most Christians, barring Christians who belong to the Evangelical Church. In one of the communities, the nature of agricultural production encourages men to marry one woman skilled in the preparation of enset and another one good in the handling of milk and milk products. In polygamous households, wives share the products of the land, with the first wife receiving a larger share. Married women have access to and control over milk, milk products, and eggs for household consumption and for sale. After the harvest, in which wives participate, most men measure out the grain and give wives some for household consumption. The remainder is kept in reserve and cannot be touched without the husband's permission.

Divorce is not traditionally practiced, and therefore, the customary rules do not provide any procedures for terminating marriage. This does not mean that divorce does not exist, but women have the right only to their personal belongings and household goods received as part of the bride's gifts. Women's right to property varies from community to community, but women rarely have a right to land. Widows without children are sometimes driven out of their community. Widows without sons do not have any rights to property and are inherited along with the family property by the husband's brother. The application of this custom varies. While the widow has a right to refuse to be inherited in one community, in another, such inheritance is automatic. These widows are vulnerable, because the new husband may sell the dead brother's estate and buy other cattle in his name. He may later desert the wife but "claim some share for having maintained the grain store, herded the cattle, and plowed the land."

Women have only limited access to land. In one community, women said they can clear and cultivate forestland, especially if they have oxen. In such cases, they control any produce generated, but virtually all land is owned by men, and women have control only to the extent that men grant it. For example, when a son marries, the father gives him a portion of land on which to build his home. These transfers are rarely documented, but local elders witness the transfer and confirm the user's rights. Two social principles underlie this customary rule. First, land is communal property and is allotted only to those who are willing to cultivate it. Women rarely cultivate land by themselves and usually need to seek male assistance. When a widow has a son who will assist her, she is granted land, but if she must seek assistance outside the family or clan, she is not allotted land, because it does not benefit the family or clan. Second, when a woman marries, she leaves the village of her birth to join her husband's village. Upon divorce, she is expected to return to her village, and any land allotted to her in the husband's village could have social ramifications. Other men in the husband's village do not assist her in her activities, and doing so can create social tensions. If she returns to her village, then the land is better allocated to someone within the village. And, since she cannot sell or transfer land, in many cases, the land is likely to lie vacant.

In each of the four communities, women are involved in income-generation activities, but the range of products is limited to low-income livestock products and the sale of small quantities of fuelwood, chat, and home-brewed liquor (see table B.1). They have very little access to wage labor, except at one site, where poor women can help to process enset in richer homes and be paid in kind. Women identify a number of constraints, key among them being lack of transportation, distance to markets, lack of capital, lack of child care facilities or arrangements, and lack of mar ketable produce. Access to extension services is limited in all communities, and virtually no services target women. Households identify the following constraints:

* Existing services are targeted at household heads, and widows are represented by brothers-in-law or sons (for example, no women received any seeds that were distributed at Fogie Kombolcha).

* Ministry of agriculture extension workers concentrate on what is widely termed "Global 2000," without focusing on other extension assistance.

* No home agents work in any of the communities (except for one who administers a savings and credit scheme in Biftu Direma).

* Extension facilities are inaccessible to communities; for example, there are no roads in Bulchana.

* The number of home and development agents is small relative to the size of the kebeles (for example, there is only one each to cover 16 villages; some time ago an attempt was made to promote vegetable growing among women, but the project was discontinued, mainly because the villages were too far apart and too far from town, and the agents had no means of transport).

Livestock is the main form of savings in all communities. The objective is to breed and keep as many livestock as possible, that is, to sell an ox and buy two heifer calves or buy one calf and a few goats in order to strengthen savings. The balance is used for household needs. As one man in Mugayo described, "Our system is like the banking system in the cities. We save, and we use the interest." Livestock is considered an asset for borrowing money, and camels are considered to be less risky assets because they are better able to survive drought conditions, provide more milk, and can be sold at a higher price than other animals. Women, however, do not control livestock, only the products, and therefore do not have access to savings. In Fogie Kombolcha, coffee could be a good form of savings if stored until the price increases. Finally, ensef is another form of savings.

Other than the above, there seem to be no formal savings or credit schemes in the communities. Informal mechanisms exist in which there are no interest payments and no set time limit for repayment. In the semipastoralist communities, there is no tradition of savings and credit groups. Clan members usually assist one another in time of need. If a clan member cannot pay, the clan pays for him, but the clan can then investigate the management of his resources. In the more settled communities of Fogie Kombolcha and Bulchana, both men and women have their own iqubs, but men save more than women; men save about birr 10 per month, while women save about birr 3 to birr 4. In Bulcahna, the men have formed a large idir, but it has no women members. Women's need for credit seems to be small (birr 2 to birr 5 in Mugayo, birr 10 in Bulchana), and credit is always used for petty trading. Women do not have any wealth to provide as collateral and therefore are not seen as creditworthy even among the communities. Given the opportunity, women in Bulcahna would avail themselves of birr 200 to birr 300 in credit to buy cows and sell their products, in particular butter, or a horse for transporting enset to bigger markets for greater profits. In Biftu Direma, the ministry of agriculture started a credit and savings scheme in June 1996. Two groups of 10 women received credit to buy a cow for raising, with repayment to be made within five years. The gender constraints facing women are revealing:

* The scheme required women to open a bank account in which birr 850 would be deposited to purchase a cow (the nearest bank is in Dedar, 42 kilometers away); accessing the bank in itself was an insurmountable task.

* Transportation costs to Deder were not included in the budget, and women had great difficulty covering them.

* Women had problems convincing their husband to allow them to travel to Deder and to stay overnight (this was necessary because the bank could not process the application in one day).

* The home agent, therefore, had to find suitable lodging and food for the women.

* The bank required identity cards to open accounts, which had to be obtained from the peasant association and endorsed by the wereda.

* Without suitable transportation, transporting cash was a risky activity.

All disputes within the family or the village are settled in accordance with customary laws in all four sites, and the influence of the gada system is particularly strong: most disputes are settled by the clan elders who are the guardians of customary laws. This puts women at great disadvantage, because under the gada principles, clan leaders are always male (see box B.3). In the words of one of the elders participating in the participatory rural assessment, "Women cannot be involved in reconciliation and are not supposed to negotiate for conflict resolution; the law forbids it." Women identified four constraints that inhibit their search for remedies: legal illiteracy; civil law as implemented by kebele courts, which reinforce customary practices, because kebele judges go back to the elders; the distance and costs associated with accessing wereda courts; and absolute lack of support from fathers and brothers (see box B.4).

Men say that gada principles strictly control men's behavior toward women (see box B.5). For example, a man who practices violence against his wife could be flogged, or a rapist could be required to sit naked on an open ant hill. However, women state that they have never seen such punishments, at least in their lifetime.
Box B.3 Perceptions of Women

Women in Oromiya view women in the following
way (participatory rural appraisal in Oromiya,

"A woman is a child-bearer, not a wisdombearer."

"However clever a woman is, she cannot be a
mediator or a peacemaker."

"A woman cannot be a judge."

Box B.4 Women and Participation

One divorcee in Mugayo, with the active support
of her brothers keeps her house and some animals
(participatory rural appraisal in Oromiya,
1997).This is considered very unusual. She tried
to organize a women's association as requested
by the wereda, but the husbands would not allow
their wives to come to the meeting. On one occasion,
some women did attend, but one of the husbands
beat up his wife in front of the meeting.
Although he was subsequently imprisoned, the
example illustrates the pressures on women to
conform to their husband's wishes.


Afar is located in the northeastern part of the country (information is also obtained from Mengesha 1994). It shares an international boundary with Djibouti and Eritrea and accounts for more than 10 percent of Ethiopia's total area. The majority of the region lies in the Rift Valley, which is predominantly desert, and faces serious problems due to environmental degradation. Afar's population of more than 1 million, which accounts for 2 percent of Ethiopia's total population, is mainly Islamic (see figure B.l). Most Afaris live in rural areas, with urban areas populated primarily by people from Amhara or Tigray, who are engaged in trade or the provision of services. Afar is divided into a number of tribal territories demarcated by boundaries that follow natural features such as rivers, hills, and rocks. Almost 92 percent of the population belong to the Afar group, a group of Cushitic origin. Their society is structured in clans, each of which is composed of households, living within a certain area and based on a strong hereditary hierarchical and kinship structure.
Box B.5 Respect for Women

In Bulchana, women say that the law requires men
to respect women; if a man insults her, she calls
all the women in the village to assemble at the
gate of the man who insulted her (participatory
rural appraisal in Oromiya, 1997). The clan leaders
judge the case, and the man may have to
slaughter a cow to feed the woman and the clan
leaders, as well as apologize to the woman. Moreover,
according to the law, a woman's case has
priority in being heard by the village leaders or


The three areas that were studied through the PRA include: Didemotu kebele in Chifra wereda, in Zone 1; Korttata kebele in Simurobi wereda, in Zone 5; and Gedi kebele in Golina wereda, in Zone 4. Communities live in clusters of 8-10 huts located in one place within larger settlements. Each tribal territory contains segments from a large number of clans (mela), of which there are about 100. Below the mela is the local community (kidoh), followed by the extended family (dahla), and then the lowest unit, the household (burro). Local communities pool their labor in all activities, and males sometimes form herding units.

Traditionally, Afaris were nomadic people, but they now live in permanent settlements and move only temporarily in search of water and grazing land. Only 33 percent of their housing consists of permanent abodes, which are constructed mainly with mud and thatch; the rest are movable or improvised (Central Statistical Authority 1994).

Access to health services is one of the lowest in the country. Most of the facilities--both educational and health--are located in weredas and other small towns along the main roads to Addis Ababa and are used primarily by town residents. Pastoral women use the facilities only in the case of complicated illnesses. Existing health facilities suffer serious constraints, and many factors, including lack of potable water, poor environmental sanitation, poor vaccination coverage, harmful traditional practices, and lack of a balanced diet, contribute to health problems. To increase delivery of services, the school built recently in Assaita, the capital of Afar, includes a health room for addressing children's health problems. However, children in schools are mainly from urban families, and in Dupti High School, only 54 out of the 2,000 students were Afaris. In 1994 telephone and postal services were available only in five out of 27 towns. Electricity is available for 24 hours a day only in Assaita and three other towns.

Most (93 percent) of the population live in rural areas, and their livelihoods are based on the production of various species of livestock. All rural families, estimated at around 11,000 in 1994, are involved in livestock production, and less than half are involved in salt production. About 800 families rent camels for transportation, at a rate of one camel for birr 200 for 36 hours. About 560 people are involved in the production of wild date palms, a product in high demand. Farming is undertaken only in two zones, which have perennial rivers. In general, Afaris consider land cultivation "an activity of foolish people," and little or no cultivation is undertaken by the majority of lowland Afaris. The average farm is small, requiring only one oxen for a day to plow. The economic strength of each Afari household depends on the size of livestock owned. Consequently, the availability of water and pasture for livestock dominates their lives on a daily and seasonal basis. However, increasingly, livestock is inadequate to support a purely pastoral mode and in 1994 contributed only 70-80 percent of the dietary intake. For this reason, Afaris are becoming involved in petty trading (trading milk and products for grain, clothing, honey, and salt). Also, with the introduction of government plantations, some Afaris have begun growing maize using water from the Dedaba River, although they lack knowledge and expertise in such matters.

Wealth in the community is determined by the number of children and livestock; a clan is respected if it is large in number. Camels are a crucial indicator of wealth. In one of the communities, Kortatta, the 1984 drought reduced herds to one-fifth of their former level. Rainy seasons result in good pasture, leading to an abundance of milk. However, there is not much variation in the household consumption of milk in such seasons, because clans share milk among themselves. When milk is available, women's workload is lighter, because they do not have to travel long distances to buy or pound grain. During the dry seasons, males migrate with livestock for several months, often leading to conflicts with other ethnic groups over access to pasture and cattle stealing. Livestock holdings are, however, decreasing as a result of ecological imbalances and environmental degradation.

All communities are Islamic and practice abukratie, or Afar Ada law, an unwritten set of customary laws. They are unfamiliar with formal legal provisions. The adjudicator of customary law is the clan leader. However, the sharia applies in personal matters such as marriage, inheritance, and divorce. The sharia is applied by a religious focal point called the village kadi.

In Afar, property involves livestock, camels, the house, and household articles, including weapons such as guns, giles or spears, and a galbo (a flat skin on which the man sleeps at night). Land is communal property, which is owned by the clan and used mainly to graze livestock; larger livestock belong to the community as a whole. Because agriculture is not a main source of income, the allocation or distribution of land is not a key property issue. There is no defined pattern of landholding, and all members of the clan, and sometimes even people from outside, have free access to use the land. The right to own houses is also not a key issue, because the majority of the population live in makeshift and transportable homes. Given this definition of property, Afari women seem to have equitable access to resources, except in the case of camels, weapons, and galbo (see table B.2). However, given the patriarchal practices, women cannot make decisions even in matters related to the children or household and must seek the permission of their husband or his relatives to engage in any activities outside the home; this may explain why they lack rights to camels. Even men cannot sell their bigger livestock without permission from the local community.

Marriage involves the traditional Islamic practice of nikah (marriage by contract). The practice of absuma is also practiced, whereby a woman marries the son of her mother's brother, and a man marries his father's sister's daughter. The customary reasons for this practice are believed to be to increase the size of the clan, to promote harmonious relations between spouses, to continue the abukratie customs through generations, and to retain properties within the clan, because women have rights to property. Polygyny is prevalent. This is particularly so because the men move outside the settlement for several months each year in search of water and fodder for livestock. They then have the opportunity to meet and marry a non-absuma, if the girl's parents agree. Men cannot refuse to marry their absuma unless they already have four wives.

Upon marriage, women have some access to property. The husband pays a bride price, usually in the form of livestock or cash. This is considered the property of the wife during her marriage. Upon marriage, sons inherit half their father's livestock and those assigned to them at birth; daughters normally inherit two cows, 10 goats or sheep, and occasionally a male camel and livestock assigned to them at birth. If this is not deemed enough, they may ask for additional livestock, but not camels. Their mothers are also expected to present them with cooking utensils and household furniture. Also upon marriage, husbands give their wife some livestock, besides a nikah gift. When this occurs, the woman controls only the products, not the animals.

Afari women own their homes, because women collect the construction materials. Women are also responsible for dismantling and reconstructing their home when the clan migrates. In some cases, the wife will take her house and construct it in her husband's village with the help of friends.

Upon termination of marriage, the woman does not have a right to common property accumulated during the marriage. Her entitlement depends on the reasons for the divorce. Where the divorce is by mutual consent, or at the husband's request, the wife takes all her property, including that transferred to her as part of the nikah. When the divorce is at the wife's request and without the husband's consent, she takes only those gifts received from her family. She cannot take the gifts provided as part of the nikah. In some instances, she may have to make a "moral payment" to the husband that can be in multiples of 12 cattle. She is required to pay this if she wishes to obtain a divorce and wishes to remarry. The participatory rural assessment identified three women who had to leave the marriage without any property--"not even a goat." Custody of the children belongs to the man, except when a woman is breast-feeding. In such a case, the woman receives any property allocated to the child upon birth. However, men feel that women do not suffer, because in all cases the closest kin of the husband is responsible for their welfare.

Afari women have limited access to property. When a child is born, the father ties the umbilical cord of the new child around the necks of livestock, giving the child ownership of the animals. A male child is normally promised camels, some cattle, and several sheep or goats. A female child receives a few cattle and some goats, but rarely camels. Until recently, inheritance rights tended to be governed by abukratie laws, under which women have no inheritance rights, but younger widows are expected to marry the husband's brother or another cousin (the uncle's son). However, the tendency is shifting toward applying the sharia, which is more favorable to women with regard to the division of property: (a) one-sixth of the property is shared equally between the deceased's parents, (b) one-eighth of the property is divided among his wives, and (c) the remainder is divided among his children, with the son getting twice that of the daughter. The rules are the same for both men and women, but because polygamy is prevalent, the male spouse normally benefits, getting one-eighth of the property.

Traditional practices are prevalent for resolving conflict. Marriage disputes are settled in four ways. First, elderly neighbors are asked to assist. If this fails, then the families of the husband and of the wife are asked to intervene. If this fails, the dispute is then brought before the clan elders, and, finally, it is brought before the village kadi. The decision of the kadi is considered final.


Located in southwestern Ethiopia, Gambella is a lowland region that shares some of its borders with Sudan. It encompasses 2 percent of the country's total area, with 25 percent of the land under forest cover and 73 percent under cultivation (GNRS), Bureau of Planning and Economic Development 1996). Gambella has abundant land, is scarcely populated--with a population of only 181,862--and is ethnically heterogeneous. The population lives mainly in the basin of Baro and Gilo rivers, which constitute only 0.5 percent of the region's land area. The Agnuak constitute the majority, followed by the Nuers. The Agnuak are mainly agriculturists, and the Nuers are pastoralists. Farming techniques are primitive and inefficient, and oxen are rarely used. The main crops are sorghum and maize. Maize was popularized in the past decade, because it is fast-growing and is not attacked by birds. Given the lack of grinding mills, the growing of maize has significantly increased women's workload. Recently, cash crops have been introduced: cotton (through government plantations) and sesame (through smallscale private enterprises). Fish are an important resource, both for subsistence and for generating income, and all adults participate in fishing.

A regional steering committee formed by the Women's Affairs Office, assisted by two weredas, selected the sites for the participatory rural assessment. The criteria for selection required that the sites were remote and represented the lifestyles of the majority of people (pastoralists. The two communities were: Ariet village in Otiel kebele in Goge wereda, about 25 kilometers west of the wereda Capital Pugnido; and Meding in Telut kebele in Jekaw wereda, about 100 kilometers southwest of Gambella town. The first community was exclusively Agnuak and the second predominantly Nuers.

Although the small population suggests that access to health facilities is better in Gambella than in other regions, women may not be using those facilities, because they are located far from town. Women in Otiel do not use the services because of the user fees. When asked to draw up a wish list, men in Telut spoke about a church, a hospital, and green grazing land. Women spoke of markets, potable water, and grinding mills.

The workload of men and women is influenced by the seasons of the year and environmental factors such as flooding. There are two harvest seasons, and much time is spent on the farm. Men's work is, however, confined to farming and livestock. They prepare the land, sow, weed, and harvest. The construction of houses and marketing of livestock are considered a man's job. Women participate in all farm activities with the men. In addition, they transport the harvest back to the home, carrying it on their backs or on their heads. In the construction of houses, women provide the grass, for which they sometimes have to travel long distances, and plaster the walls and the floor using cow dung mixed with special soil. They also market small goods such as milk and milk products, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and firewood. In times of scarcity, women also make and sell traditional handicrafts and ropes out of grass. Women also produce areke, an alcoholic drink, and often market it door-to-door. Gambella women also fish to supplement the household income. Additionally, women collect water and fuelwood, care for children, and cook. Generally, men work eight hours during the farming season and three during other times; women work for 15-16 hours on average through all seasons.

For women, the most tedious and labor-intensive work is food processing. This function includes pounding, repounding, and grinding the grain and then making the flour into a porridge with fish sauce. The porridge is cooked outdoors on an open flame, which also takes considerable time. Women market goods, although they never sell or purchase livestock, with the rare exception of a sheep or goat. In Otiel, the market is 35 kilometers away, and women cover these distances on foot. They get stuck in the rain and spend nights in other villages. Women report that, after pounding, marketing is the most tedious and time-consuming task, indicating how difficult the task of pounding must be. Women in Gambella are involved in all reproductive and productive activities, but their contribution is not fully acknowledged or recognized by development planners. Children are also considered one of the productive forces of the household and are involved in a number of activities.

Heads of households are mostly men, although there are some female-headed households, which are mostly run by widows whose husbands were killed in an accident in the nearby gold mine or in the civil war. The presence of about 50 handicapped former soldiers also adds to the number of female-headed households. Single female heads of households or children born out of wedlock are nonexistent.

Customary laws prevail, with few communities being aware of the rights conferred by the civil code. A woman normally has no right to property. Her property is usually limited to household utensils consisting of gourds, wooden spoons, and a couple of pots and pans. She also owns any cattle that were gifted to her upon marriage.

As a child, a woman has no rights to any family property, in particular land. In rare cases, however, if she happens to be the only child or there is no male child, she may inherit the property of her parents, including land; in such cases, she can exercise full control over this property even after marriage.

Polygamy is common, with a man's status increasing with the number of wives. For example, in Telut, out of the 300 households, 200 consisted of more than one wife. Polygamy also provides additional labor, in terms of both wives and children. Also, women are expected to abstain from sex for two to three years after childbirth, and the man often takes on a second wife during this period. Sometimes, the wife asks the husband to bring in another wife to help her cope with her chores. Polygamous families all live together in one or in nearby compounds, sharing work and resources. Children are raised together without discrimination.

Upon marriage, it is customary for the groom to pay a bride price to the parents of the bride. Upon such payment, the payer owns the bride. If the bride has children by an earlier marriage, unless the groom is the brother-in-law of the first spouse, who does not need to pay, the payer of the bride price obtains the wife as well as her children. This payment is in cash among the Agnuaks and in livestock among the Nuers. Sometimes, a man may be allowed to marry even if he cannot pay the bride price. The bride's parents will give him a definite period within which to complete the payment. If the man dies before paying the bride price, a male member from the husband's family may complete the payment and claim ownership, or the family together may complete the payment. In such a case, the woman can cohabit with any man, but her children will be named after the deceased husband. The father of the children cannot claim fatherhood, because he did not pay the bride price. In effect, the bride price is paid to assert fatherhood, and the responsibility of the woman is to bear the children of whoever pays the bride price. If, for some reason, no one cares to inherit the widow, her parents are not obliged to return the bride price, and she will be looked after by her husband's relatives. If, however, money is available to pay the remaining bride price, but the widow refuses to be inherited, her parents are obliged to return the bride price, and the widow and her children return to her parent's home. In Telut, young men work at the gold mine to save for the bride price.

Intertribal marriages are rare. Rape is taboo, and should it happen, the men of the clan stone the offender to death.

Divorce is discouraged, and women are pressured to stay married. Widows are usually inherited by their brothers-in-law. Thus, female heads of household are households that have sons. Where there is divorce, it is finalized by the kebele council. Among the Nuer, when a woman gets divorced, and she has no children, her parents must return the bride price (normally about 25 heads of cattle) to the former husband. If, however, she has children, her family will be able to keep 10 cattle for every female child and eight for every male child she leaves behind. Should the total value of the children exceed the 25 heads of cattle, the husband may keep the children without paying the difference.

The main resource of the Agnuak is land, which the Nuer use mainly for grazing. Land is a communal asset, and men are the sole users and owners of land. Land is not sold and is passed from father to son. However, in Gambella, given the availability of surplus land, a woman can use land, if she is willing to put in the necessary time and energy. Married women have no control over land but do have a right to use the produce of the land. Among the pastoral Nuers, if a woman is widowed, she is usually inherited by her husband's brother. If not, she has full access to and control over the husband's plot of land and may cultivate the land with the help of male members of her husband's family. Among the agricultural Agnuaks, where women need the help of men to cultivate, land is controlled by the male help. If a women is divorced, she is unlikely to have access to land. Thus, if she is very young, she will have to remarry, or, if old, she will be dependent on her children for support. A widow may, however, control the purchase and sale of products from livestock, although she cannot sell the animals without male permission. Among the Agnuaks, women may inherit land under three conditions: (1) upon the death of the father, if there are no sons; (2) upon the death of the husband--if the wives cannot be inherited, the land is divided equally among the wives; and (3) upon the death of the husband, when the son is not old enough to take charge.

Disputes in the family or community are settled by the kebele council in accordance with customary laws. There are no formal clan leaders. The kebele officials are elected by the whole village, including the women. In one community, a female kebele representative has been elected. However, because the primary function of the council is to settle disputes and this is not a traditionally accepted role for women, most women themselves see the election of a woman as meaningless.

Women normally sell items such as milk, firewood, grass, areke, chicken, meat, pots, and occasionally baskets. When additional cash is needed, they go out and fish. Fish is normally sold doorto-door. If it is to be taken to the market, it has to be processed through smoking. Although the production of areke is common, its sale began after the settlement program and intensifies during periods of difficulty like floods. Baskets are also seasonal produce, because the raw materials are not available throughout the year.

As in other parts of the country, no formal groups were identified in the two communities. Perhaps this is a result of tightly knit clans. When a member wants money or something in kind, he or she borrows from whomever has it. Payment of interest is not practiced. In the words of a group of eight men, "We share everything with everybody; we are like a big family." There are no NGOs in the two communities, although the Red Cross and the Mekane Yesus Church have provided support at times.

Southern Nation, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region

The southern region consists of five regions, grouped together for ease of administration. These five regions (Northern Omo, Southern Omo, Guraghe, Sidama, and Wollayta) consist of about 45 culturally and ethnically different groups. The total region also accounts for 10 percent of the country's area, with 23 percent of the land under cultivation; 13 percent, cultivable; 20 percent, pasture; 18 percent, forest and bush land; and 25 percent, other types of land (Awasa Bureau of Planning and Economic Development 1996). It accounts for 0.3 percent of Ethiopia's total population. (The regional council has not accepted the results of the population and housing census of October 1994, but the difference between the census results of 194,755 as opposed to the region's estimate of 203,430 is small.) Females account for almost 49 percent of the population. This small region is inhabited by five nationalities, along with immigrant settlers who were brought in under a resettlement program of the previous regime. Given the size of the population, access to health services is relatively high, but given the lack of roads (284 kilometers of all-weather roads) and transport facilities, only 47 percent of the population have access to services. Culturally, women are entirely responsible for domestic work. Maize and sorghum are the staple food, and women spend approximately 35 hours a week, on average, pounding maize and sorghum (Government of Ethiopia and UNICEF 1993). The participatory rural assessment was conducted in six communities.

The PRA was conducted in six communities: Fishto kebele, in Bonke Gerese wereda in Northern Omo zone (ethnic group: Gamo; religion: Christianity); Korate Kororesa kebele in Dara wereda in Sidama zone (ethnic group: Sidama; religion: Christianity); Ariksha Koyosan kebele in Bako Gazar wereda, in South Omo zone (ethnic group: Are, religion: Protestantism); Gaho; in Konso Special wereda (ethnic group: Konso; religion: not reported); Koda kebele in Chena wereda, Kefitcho-Shekitcho Zone; and Doesha Mete kebele in Limu wereda, Hadiya Zone.

The situation of women, though different in each site, is one of complete dominance by men. In two of the study sites, women own no property. In Korate Sidama, women own items such as mirrors, pillows, comb, an enset scraper, and their clothes, which they may take with them in case of dispute. In Zale, Northern Omo, women can own livestock and other property. In both communities, women do not allude to anything as belonging to them in the presence of their husbands. In all study sites, men and women deliver the same message: women are the property of men, and children and clothes are the property of women.

Land is the most important resource in all study sites. However, productivity has declined due to erratic rainfall, erosion, drought, diseases, deforestation, and increased population from forced settlement schemes. The main agricultural products are maize, sorghum, coffee, teff, wheat, barley, pigeon peas, enset, potatoes, and cabbage. The decline in productivity has influenced women's work in that greater numbers of women have turned to petty trading and spinning, and poorer women are even engaged in the sale of fuelwood and in wage labor to supplement household income. In addition, the decline in productivity has also decreased the nutritional value of available food, affecting the health of the community. For example, in Korate, women have stopped eating cereals, peas, and beans, with three meals now consisting of enset. In Sidama, Dara, and Korate, women have inherited land from their fathers but have not built tukuls on them, and the land is used in a tentative manner, with no proper or valid ownership rights.

Only men can be heads of household. They are the owners, controllers, and administrators of all property and make all decisions. Unlike in Amhara and in parts of Oromiya, women do not make any decisions even over matters related to the house. There are female-headed households, but even in these cases, women are merely nominal owners, with control being with the son, other male relatives, or elders in the community. In the communities studied, different social classes are identified and defined by their skills and division of labor. Classes usually marry only among themselves. For example, in Ari South Omo, there are four classes: kanthas (upper classes), gitas and dongers (laboring classes, which do not intermarry), and manana, who assist the kanthas with labor. Development planners will need to ensure that benefits are delivered in an equitable manner to all classes. Well-being is described as having a sufficient amount of food and the ability to pay the land tax. Anything else is considered a luxury. Women see the health of children as a sign of well-being, whereas men view the availability of the local drink (tella) during meals as a sign of wellbeing.

In all four sites, land is owned by, and registered in, the name of men. Any land under the control of female heads of household is held in the name of a son or male relative. Widows and divorcees have no right to land. Out of the 41 female heads of household in the four sites, only nine have access to land.

The exclusive sources of income for women in the different zones are the production and sale of enset and of local drinks from leftover grains. Poorer women are involved in wage labor, essentially the scraping of enset, the picking of cotton and coffee, and the spinning of cotton. Men receive between birr 1 and birr 5 per day, while women receive birr 5 to birr 10 for 15 days. Also, the scarcity of markets is a severe constraint to income-generating activities. In South Omo, for example, women sell local drinks on roadsides for travelers, but in the other sites, this is not possible due to religious restrictions on drinking. In Konso, making chenka (a local drink made out of maize, sorghum, and millet) is the exclusive source of income for women but is possible only during the harvesting seasons. However, women lack time for other activities. When asked about their priorities, women indicated the need for a clinic, a flour mill, piped water, and access to credit.

All categories of households are involved in farm activities, although women do not plow fields or clear bushy areas. The only domestic activity in which women are not involved is the construction of their homes or tukuls. Men work for about 10 hours, while women work 18 hours a day.

The main forms of savings in the six sites consist of livestock products, petty trading, interest in iqubs, idirs, and chickens and other small ruminants. Savings are seasonal, and credit is common in all villages. There is no formal source of credit, and households turn to relatives, friends, or moneylenders when they need a loan. Credit in Sidama for women ranges between birr 20 and birr 50; for men, between birr 30 and birr 300. When only a small amount of credit is needed (between birr 10 and birr 30), it is usually obtained interestfree; otherwise, varying interests are charged.

Neither women nor men are inclined to use the judicial system to settle disputes. Instead, disputes are resolved through mediation by local elders, clan members, or other kebele officials. In most cases, customary law is applied, and both men and women are condemned for disobedience.

Customary groupings are not common, although the Aris have a labor-sharing organization, in which many molas come together at the kebele level under the leadership of a customary lord, called the godimi. There is also a customary union of women who work on farms, performing chores such as weeding. Due to interventions by NGOs, a few women's groups have been formed. For example, in the Gaho, Konso, Farm Africa grouped women into a dairy goat group. This group has 41 members and is known as the Dairy Goat Group Women's Association. The group receives credit in cash and in kind. All committee members are trained in management. The women members have seen a perceptible change in their economic status and attribute this intervention with having a beneficial impact on their families, especially their children. Men do not consider idirs and iqubs as an important institution in the village, while women identify them as one of the five most important institutions, with the dego, church, school, and elders constituting the other four. Men identify the school, the three churches (Catholic, Orthodox, and Mekane Yesus), the wereda council, the nursery site, and the bureau of agriculture as the critical institutions. Women who participate in iqubs seem to have full control over any revenues generated.
Table B.1 Source of Household Income in Biftu
Direma, Oromiya

Male head Female head
of household of household

Livestock Petty trading
Daily labor Sale of fuelwood and water
Sales of grain Sale of chat

Source: Participatory rural appraisal in Oromiya, 1997.

Table B.2 Number of Assets per Family
in Elidaar Wereda, Afar, 1984 and 1994

Category 1984 1994

Goats 20 3
Sheep 3 0-1
Camels 5 1

Source: Ethiopian Social and Rehabilitation Development Fund
report on the rapid rural appraisal in Afar, 1994.
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Title Annotation:Implementing the Ethiopian National Policy for Women: Institutional and Regulatory Issues
Publication:Implementing the Ethiopian National Policy for Women
Date:Apr 1, 1998
Previous Article:Annex A National policy for women, 1993.
Next Article:Annex C Institutional arrangements for development planning at the regional level.

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