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Various women and youth stakeholders have put together a policy document, Gender Equality and Empowering Women, to be presented to parliament for ratification. If implemented, the policy will be a shift forward from the country’s existing 22-year-old policy for women and youth.

“When the existing policy was ratified in 1994, it gave great emphasis to gender equality because at that time the value given to gender equality was very low. Now, times have changed – many girls are found in schools, institutions and businesses and the revised policy needs to consider women’s current status and situation,” said a drafting member of the policy.

The document’s main aim is to promote women’s social and economic participation by allowing them access to finances and services. Emphasis is on supporting women entrepreneurs by in the informal sector as well as small and medium enterprises through support packages and laying out accessible procedures to enter markets. Increasing women’s participation in agriculture is also encompassed in the draft policy.
The policy was drafted having integrated experiences in the sector from countries like Gambia, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, South Africa and South Korea, and according to a source from the drafting committee, it will ease some of the challenges women face in business, health and social activities. The policy is excepted to be ratified by the end of this fiscal year.

“Work done thus far in small and medium enterprises is benefiting several women but additional guidelines and procedures are needed to bring out more results. Much has been done in health with health stations and hospitals built to increase access to medical services but diseases such as breast and cervical cancer are increasing and need strategies supported by policy,” sources said.

In other news, the government also plans to extend the youth age range from 15 to 29 to 15 to 35 years, to encompass and benefiting more youth in its policies.

“We have seen that many people spend their early 20’s in education and so cannot really benefit from the current youth policy. And, we have seen that in several other countries the range is higher than ours, which led us to suggest the range increase to parliament in the coming few months,” sources added.

Statistics shows that almost 60 percent of the Ethiopian population falls in between the 15 to 35 years of age.