World Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities

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Published by Science and Education Publishing DOI:10.12691/wjssh-6-3-2

One Step Forward and Two Step Back Ward Move of

Ethiopian Women under the Era of Globalization

Gutema Adem Assistant1,*, Idris Ebrahim2, Temam Kedir3


Department of Civics and Ethical Studies, College of Social Science and Humanities, Madda Walabu University, Robe, Ethiopia


Department of Sociology, College of Social Science and Humanities, Madda Walabu University, Robe, Ethiopia


Department of Afaan Oromo, College of Social Science and Humanities, Madda Walabu University, Robe, Ethiopia *Corresponding author:

Received July 28, 2020; Revised August 30, 2020; Accepted September 08, 2020

Abstract The objectives of this article is to provide an overall assessment of how globalization, has crushed

Ethiopian women. More, specifically, the paper attempts to explore and touch how the globalization has impacted on: Gender equality, Feminization poverty, Feminization of migration, and exacerbate Divorce in Ethiopia. It is fact that it should be impossible for globalization to have a neutral impact on women, i.e. be equally positive or negative, when: established conditions are biased against women; policy-making institutions do not conduct policy monitoring and evaluations and mistreat the gendered outcomes of globalization; and growth is dependent upon women’s unpaid reproductive and productive role. Thus, globalization has gender discriminating effects because of gender-differentiated initial conditions which discriminate against women. The fundamental reasons for gender-biased effects of globalization in developing countries in general and in Ethiopia in particular are: the discriminatory gender ideologies that result in differential roles for women and men in the productive and reproductive spheres. The sexual division of labour disadvantage women in a double sense: first, through their inferior position in the labour market and, secondly, through their role in the care economy and the reproductive responsibilities ascribed to their gender role. Both positions limit women’s access to resources, increase their vulnerability to feminization of poverty, migration and consequently increase the risks associated with globalization. Poverty is a critical factor contributing to child marriage, and divorce. Thus, Poverty drives Ethiopian women and children into divorce, commercial sex and streets in the major cities of the countries, which make them vulnerable to sexual exploitation, abuse and rape. As early marriage is rampant in the rural areas of Ethiopia, those escaping this type of marriage, or those simply escaping rural poverty, migrate to towns and cities or abroad where they will either become maidservants or join the commercial sex industry.


: globalization, women, feminization, migration and poverty

Cite This Article: Gutema Adem Assistant, Idris Ebrahim, and Temam Kedir, “One Step Forward and Two

Step Back Ward Move of Ethiopian Women under the Era of Globalization.” World Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, vol. 6, no. 3 (2020): 74-80. doi: 10.12691/wjssh-6-3-2.

1. Introduction

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 7th Edition defines globalization as “the fact that different cultures and economic systems around the world are becoming connected and similar to each other because of the influence of large multinational companies and of improved communication. Globalization is a process and not a condition or an event. Derived from the English word ‘globe’, globalization simply means bringing the world into a global village, but its definition is not that simple. Asobie [1] lectured that globalization is an argumentative concept.

Globalization increases cross border flow of goods, services, money people, information and culture. We also find common concepts like mutual interdependence, exchange and sharing of the communication around

the world in all aspects such as social, economic, cultural and even linguistic aspects. Culturally speaking, globalization is the emergence of different cultural beliefs that are common cross-culturally and across national boundaries. That is to say that concept of gender inequality is widely acknowledged in the world today. The global communication leads to some extent functional homogenization of culture and language. These two aspects namely, homogenization of culture and homogenization of language, are particularly relevant for translating globalization as a reality. The homogenization of culture due to globalization process results in the marginalization, assimilation and assassination of indigenous cultures.


hardly be affected by globalization leading to polarizing outcomes between different groups of women. The differential impacts of globalization and the balance between risks and opportunities depends. Moreover, the gender specific context, on factors in Ethiopia such as: family status, education, martial and age, the country’s insertion in the world market its ability to adapt to global restructuring in its various forms. Sen (1996), for example, considers the gender dimension of regional integration and concludes that its impacts are likely to be complex, positive and negative depending on whether there is a resulting capital inflow or outflow, and involving women in both member and nonmember countries.

Globalization has both positive and negative impacts on women. The known positive effects of globalization in the literature is that it has increased employment opportunities for women. For example, globalization has created work opportunities for women, especially professionals, in the newly emerging forms of employment in the IT and service sectors [2]. It is to a large extent true that through globalization, women have gained certain opportunities in terms of widening field of job options and also in terms of recognizing women’s rights as a part of the human rights (Ibid).

However, women face major challenges as a result of changes in the world economy arising from rapid globalization and fast-paced technological progress [3,4]. Therefore, not a few feminist scholars believes that the negative impacts of globalization on women outweigh its positive effects [5]. Thus, the overall effects of globalization have proven to be negative [6].

Thus, it undeniable fact that women in developing countries in general and in Ethiopia in particular are at greater risk of a deterioration in their well-being unlike their counterparts of developed countries. Firstly, developing countries’ have difficulties in adapting to and benefiting from the new conditions of global trade due to unfair trade rules and associated structural adjustment policies. Secondly there is a relatively strong gender discriminating culture and patriarchal ideology which need time to change.

Globalization has led to women in developing countries migrating to developed countries to seek better economic opportunities in developed countries due to the fact that they have been victims of wage discrimination by TNCs in their home countries. Previously, migration was male-dominated but now international migration is increasingly becoming feminized [7]. However, women often do not have the same labour opportunities as men abroad and tend to earn less than men [8]. Women tend to be discriminated as migrants as host countries do not consider the gender implications of their immigration policies and programs. Although the demand for female employment brings about an array of opportunities and a sense of independence, the glass ceiling continues to exist with the “feminization of poverty” [9].

In Ethiopia Women participate massively in economies: in agriculture and agro-agricultural activities, in the informal sector, through unpaid domestic labour and, and in formal salaried employment. Unfortunately, their participation is often greatly lacking in the decision-making, power-wielding arenas within their economic sectors, within trade unions, within their

regional and national government. This phenomenon has led to the “feminization of poverty” which has had a disempowering effect on women by increasing their responsibilities while reducing their resources [10].

The influence of women on the decision- making process in the household and in the community is a reflection of customs and cultures and power relations. These relations are profoundly embedded in society and are resistant to change. However, globalization is having a major impact on customary decision-making patterns. Changes in household structures have implied renegotiations of gender relations, with outcomes dependent on individual choices, socio-cultural context as well as economic factors. This may result in the possibility for increase in psychological problems and increased violence against women. For instance, According to Kuwee in the past, women in Ethiopia in general and in Oromiya in particular were able to use what was called the siinqee institution (ateetee) when saffuu was lost and seera Waaqa (the law of God) was violated, as a weapon to fight for their rights [11]. This is very much the case today in areas where ateetee is still practiced. Some of the contexts in which women would use (and still use) ateetee included: property rights, control over their sexuality and fertility (the right to have a lover), social rights (they formed a siinqee sisterhood and could gather when they see suitable), and religious and moral authority (Ibid). Today Ateetee is really only used for different types of abuse. In the past, according to Kumsa if any of the women‘s rights /women’s human right in contemporary feminist languages were violated, a woman could go out and scream (iyya siiqqee-siiqqee scream), then other women would drop.

After the scream when women‘s rights were violated in the historical siinqee institution, an elder man would be sent to try to negotiate and make peace with the women, and, if this failed, the women could begin what was called a godaansa siiqqee (siiqqee trek) during which they would take refuge with a neighboring clan. They would leave their husbands to tend to women‘s duties, such as preparing food and milking the cows. Their husbands would not look favorably upon these tasks and would want the women to come home as soon as possible. If the problem was not resolved, this could result in a war between clans [12]. This was obviously a very serious affair, demonstrating the potential political power of the women‘s institution: But, even if no war is declared, Megersa claims, a community minus its women has already collapsed as a community. It is not a community any more. But social sanctions do go as far as declaring war to protect women‘s rights in the balance of power Waaqa created. But now day women lost this rights and privileges in Ethiopia due to the impact of legal rules and globalization. The Ethiopian


However, having an entire community involved holds the disputing parties accountable and creates a space where restoring balance and re- establishing good relations are paramount. The state legal system can also seem inaccessible and intimidating to women who do not know the process. Moreover when women use the courts they do not have the entourage of all the other ateetee women as support and defense. For Oromo women, a political and gender minority in Ethiopia, Ethiopian courts could be seen as doubly repressive and not really a viable option.

Generally Changes develop, at times in violent and volatile ways, threatening the social institutions that the women have grown up knowing. When the women indigenous institution are threatened, so, too, are the traditional rights and powers afforded women in Ethiopia culture and the justice system. Of course, as values and beliefs shift in society, so will many women‘s places, spaces and the ways in which they promote their rights. [13].

The basic reasons of rapid social change is that of, globalization, urbanization and rural-urban migration. Now a day Towns and cities are growing very quickly in Ethiopia. These, rapid urbanization poses a number of challenges on women:

 City and town infrastructure is not always ready for the influx of people. For example, schools are having difficulty keeping up with the numbers of female students with the result that there are not enough resources to ensure gender practical and strategic needs for female student’s success.

 There are many cases of forced rural migration of people because the Ethiopian government is taking land and selling off large tracts to foreign investors. Currently there are extreme tensions between protesters all over Oromiya and the government over the land grabbing issue around Addis Ababa. The land grabbing issue affect the Ethiopian peasants as a whole but women are more victims.  Urbanization and rural exodus often have become

synonymous with leaving behind some rural cultural practices.

 All of these processes challenge the practice of Ateetee and other indigenous women institution in Ethiopia in generally and in Oromiya in particular.

2. Gender Dimension of Migration

A gender perspective on international migration extends the current understanding about international migration through examine of gender specific causes of migration, the vulnerability, the potential for women migrant empowerment and the consequence of migration on them. It also avoids the potential dangers of treating women migration as special case and or deviant from men migration and highlights women as the agents of change through international migration. Thus, participation of women into out-migration or in international migration reflects their social roles, their capacity for making decisions, their accessibility for societal resources and the existing gender stratification both in the origin and destination countries. However, the experiences may vary

based on whether the migration is voluntary, involuntary, whether the entry into the host country is legal or not [14]. For long time women have remained invisible in studies on migration. Their socio-economic contributions and unique experiences have not been taken into account. In the 1960s and 1970s migration theories often assumed that most migrants were male, and that women were merely wives and dependents who followed their husbands. Consequently, migration was described as purely male phenomenon. Yet, women have always been present in migratory flows, traditionally as spouses, daughters and dependents of male migrants. Moreover the past decades have seen an increase in women autonomous migration as the main economic providers or breadwinners for their families.

This feminization of migration gives rise to specific problematic forms of migration, such as the commercialized migration of women and girls as domestic workers and caregivers, often resulting in the trafficking of women for labour and sexual exploitation. This trend, which shows the increased mobility of women in almost all regions of the world, and the increasing number of women migrating as breadwinners, make the feminization of migration more tangible [15].

Globalization has further been related to growing exploitation of women in the form of human trafficking or trafficking linked to prostitution, particularly in countries characterized by accelerated transformation in order to adopt a market-integrated world. The evolution of international trafficking in women and girls appears to be closely linked to changing demands for women‘s labour in the global political economy, and the changing patterns of international migration. Trafficked women frequently come from regions where there are few employment opportunities for women and where women are dependent on others and lack access to resources to change their situation. Traffickers further target vulnerable women that are of low income, and deprived socially [16]. Inequality and poverty has therefore, closely related the increase human trafficking.

The patriarchal structure that dictates the unequal division of labour has created a place for women in the global labour market. Women workers from Ethiopia migrate to different parts of the world in search of better job opportunities to escape poverty and improve the circumstances of themselves and their families to the Arab states. Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main destinations for women domestic labour [17].


Due to the seemingly voluntary nature, it is unfortunate reality that many of the domestic migrant women effectively enslave themselves by hoping improvements of their economic situations at home. This limits the mobility of domestic migrant workers and leaves her at the forgiveness of her employer who beats or sexual assault her (Ibid).

By strengthening the above argument Bale’s [19] argued that, the legal administrative and the working conditions of foreign domestic workers in the Gulf States are consistent with the concept of “contract slavery. Here, accordingly contract slavery contains three major elements: violence, restriction of physical movement and economic exploitation. Similar to the above discussion participants of the study reported that, their employer locked home while she is inside the home when they are absent from the home. This is for the purpose of maintaining control over her, so she cannot speak to other housemaids of nearby houses even.

Participant of Saudi Arabia emigrants explained the burden she shoulders as follow:

I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for seven month. Cleaning house, preparing food and ironing cloth are the common task. But what is more difficult for me in that homes is cleaning house. I clean the house at least twice per day. Because their children are too delinquent when I clean the room they make it dirty. I have no time even for praying. They say to me, it is not obligatory for shakals( servants to pray. But I retuned back to my country before completing my agreement of two years when he refused to paid my salary monthly [18].

Many of the participants raised the issue of ill-treatment of the employer and how much the children of the employer lacks ethics, but what is difficult here for domestic migrants in the Arab states is that not only the problem of heavy work load and their children behavior, above all they are not well feed to accomplish the heavy and non-stopping work in the house of the employer. The overall causes for feminization of migration of Ethiopian women to the Middle East is that poverty, unemployment and social network that related to globalization.

Apart from economic reasons in Ethiopia, which are of primary importance, women and in particular young single women, tend to migrate in order to escape the hardship of rural life and the patriarchal and social control. In the course of their migration women may develop their skills and decide to build an independent life rather than continue their former roles in the household. However, since women in their migration rely on social networks that assist them in finding a job and in providing a safety net in times of emergencies, their ability to act independently may be reduced or weakened. Therefore, they may not fully benefit from the opportunities the of contemporary globalized and feminized migratory process that brings such as exposure to new values, ideas and roles such as to prostitution, commercial sex workers, lesbianism thoughts and experiences which are totally out lawed and prohibited by the values and cultures of Ethiopians’.

3. Feminization of Poverty

It is clear that the role of women in the economic activities is significant in both urban and rural. Throughout the world, most women do not have an equal share of land, credit, education, employment and political power in comparison to men of their society, yet in every society women play vital roles. In rural areas, they perform the bulk of unpaid and unappreciated household works, as well as contributing significantly to agricultural production. Approximately half of the world’s food is grown by women and an estimated two third of women workers in developing countries work in agricultural sector.

Moreover, women contribute two-third of the total number of working hours needed for the production process and constitute one-third of the total labor force but receive one-tenth of the total remuneration. It is obvious that the role women play in development is enormous. Yet the benefits they get are not at all commensurate with their contributions. Consequently, they are lagging behind in every field of development [20].

There are different other studies on feminization poverty and related issues in Ethiopia. According to the analysis made by Emebet which was conducted in 2003 [21], both men and women were found to be severely affected by poverty. But women were more affected because of the unequal division of labor within and outside the home. Women have not only limited access to productive resources but also limited access or opportunities to basic services like health and education.

Education, health care and other important aspect of wellbeing have relation with individuals’ status, as women and girls have limited opportunities they face difficulties in basic necessities vital to their well-being. Absence of such basic services may be an indication or high probability to be exposed for poverty.

Commercialization of agriculture together with trade liberalization, especially in developing countries, have created new employment opportunities for women in rural areas which are also accompanied by new risks. For instance, export crop expansion may force women from permanent agricultural employment into seasonal employment.

Globalization is affecting the livelihood prospects of Ethiopian rural women not only through its effects on agriculture but also through its effects on industry. Trade liberalization coupled with free movement of capital has enabled many developing countries including Ethiopian to set up export industries using cheap labour. This has opened up employment opportunities for women, especially in the newly established industrial parks at different corners of Ethiopian regions like the garments and agro processing industries. As a result women are moving in large numbers from rural to urban areas to make use of these opportunities, resulting in a distinct feminization of labour force in export-oriented industries (Ibid).


such opportunities favor only those who have certain skills, capacities and access to social networks and assets. This brought uncalculated a danger for women unless they are provided with education and training to acquire the necessary skills. Such a selective phenomenon is evident where employers in certain export industries prefer young women with some education over older women who often do not. In general rural women work long hours, and under difficult circumstances often without proper technologies to ease their productive and reproductive work.

By and large, the benefits amassing to rural women and men, through new economic opportunities brought by globalization differ due to prevailing gender norms and inequalities. Men appear to be reluctant to assume work traditionally associated with women (particularly reproductive work) unless there is an increase in status or when it is well paid. Women may be reluctant to assume work traditionally associated with men, but do so out of need.

The labour market (as well as education and training) is heavily segregated along gender lines, with differences between regions and cultures. Also some generalizations about gender divisions in the labour force are quite truthful, men dominate certain sectors and occupations and women others. Women are usually highly concentrated in the sectors that require lesser skills (e.g. agriculture), that promise little chance for career advancements (e.g. services) and that are related to care-giving (e.g.: nursing), which often coincide also with low wages. The gender division of labour is not fixed for all time; it changes in response to wider economic, political and social changes. For example, men and women follow different migration patterns, and engage in different occupations when they migrate. Migration may also result in men taking on tasks that they would not normally consider within their socially ascribed role, like having to cook for themselves. Some migrants often have to accept occupations for which they are overqualified. The employment of immigrant women in industrialized countries, as maids or care-providers, may not make it possible for them to advance their professional area of work [22].

In Ethiopia both in rural and urban, women have little leisure time during the day, except soon after they have given birth to children. In earlier times, women were exempted from routine domestic and extra-domestic work for about six months after giving birth to children. On the other hand, there are several occasions for men to have free time with friends, especially on market days. In fact, market days determine the measure of social life - meeting friends, discussing social and political issues and, of course, selling and buying goods and services. While market days are important to meet daily necessities for women and men may simply visit markets to relax, without necessarily buying or selling. The key informants of madda walabu district report the influence of market on women from men’s perspective as follows:

“Dubartoonni har’a hojiifillee dubbiifillee gabayaa deemu; dhoorkuuf naaf hin sarmitu; dhiisuuf qabeenya koo gabayatti fixaa jirti. Yeroo ammaa mana tokko keessa mootii lamatu jira; tokko abbaa warraa inni

biraa ammoo haadha warraati”. Which means that today women want to market for two major purposes: for work (buying and selling of products) and for finding and learning unethical issues and values. She never accepts may order, because nowadays women and men in the house hold are equally powerful or two governments are there on the same issue at the same place. I can’t say anything except saying that this is the order of the day” [23].

This implies that though women were went to the market to sell agricultural products and to buy goods and commodities from the market; there is a tendency to looking them by their husbands as they want to the market simply for the sake of cultural contamination through having access to modernization and urbanization which both points to globalization.

The expansion of agriculture introduced new forms of cooperation between neighbors and additional domestic and extra-domestic tasks both for men and women. Since agriculture became part of their subsistence system, women began to prepare food when men were engaged Jigii or daboo, (work parties). They may also do agricultural work, such as weeding, either with their husbands, other family members or alone, when work parties are not formed. Carrying maize from the field to the storage facility is women’s exclusive work. They also harvest teff and barley, even though this is not their primary task. Before threshing, women have to make the threshing ground smooth with cattle dung, while threshing with sticks is the task of men [24].

Men’s task has a seasonal nature; men become busy during the plowing and sowing seasons and they relax during the dry season. Unlike men, women remain busy throughout the year with routine domestic chores and agriculture related activities although they have little control over agricultural products.

Therefore, the expansion of agriculture increased women’s work burden and reduced their control over resources thus compared to their counter parts men, have time poverty because they are pre occupied with multiple of tasks such as domestic chores (house hold chores, reproductive roles and productive roles at the same time but all for all these roles women’s did not get equal status and recognition with men in Ethiopia.

According the research conducted by Gutema and sultan [23] there is clear gender division of labor regarding to the product selling and buying of husband and wife to and from the local market accessible for them. Accordingly, the wives are responsible to sell agricultural products such as milk, butter, potato, tomato, papaya, fire wood, onion, cabbage, etc. This fact is revealed by the following picture.


Figure 1. Photo of women Selling fruits and other local produced products at the local market, Gulit (April, 2019)

4. Conclusion

 New technologies for agricultural production are leading to the creation of new employment opportunities in rural industries and agribusiness enterprises. However, such opportunities favor only those who have certain skills, capacities and access to social networks and assets.

 The influence of women on the decision- making process in the household and in the community is a reflection of customs and cultures and of power relations. This e relations are profoundly embedded in society and are resistant to change. However, globalization is having a major impact on customary decision-making patterns.

 Globalization is affecting the livelihood prospects of Ethiopian rural women not only through its effects on agriculture but also through its effects on industry.

 In Ethiopia, in general women and young single women in particular, tend to migrate in order to escape the hardship of rural life and the patriarchal and social control.

 The patriarchal structure that dictates the unequal division of labour has created a place for women in the global labour market. Women workers from Ethiopia migrate to different parts of the world in search of better job opportunities to escape poverty and improve the circumstances of themselves and their families to the Arab states.

 Community minus its women has already collapsed as a community. It is not a community any more.


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Figure 1. Photo of women Selling fruits and other local produced products at the local market, Gulit (April, 2019)

Figure 1.

Photo of women Selling fruits and other local produced products at the local market, Gulit (April, 2019) p.6