Africa’s oldest independent country, Ethiopia is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups, and each group conserves its identity through food, language, and colors and translates their diverse traditions into handcrafts unique to each culture. Ethiopian culture is vast with artistic expression and traditional handcraft skills. From precious religious artifacts to everyday utilitarian objects, the Ethiopian aesthetic reflects a culture gifted with a deep history and human creativity. Traditionally, local artisans manufacture most of the essential items used in everyday life, from textiles to furniture and cookery to utensils; artisans are still a very important part of the country’s economy.
With a population of 91.73 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest and it is also among the poorest countries in the world with 29.6 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and life expectancy of only 54.7 years. Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, registering greater gains since 2000, but still ranking close to the bottom of the Index.
largest country in Africa
poorest country in the world
From Ethiopia: Meet the Artisan
Woven Promises is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and works to create economic partnerships through support of entrepreneurial effort of talented but economically struggling people in the developing world. Their artisans produce, spin, weave, and dye their products by hand in Ethiopia, reflecting traditional and contemporary patterns and designs. These products create sustainable employment, access to health care and a savings fund for the artisans. Woven Promises exists on a foundation of deep appreciation of the cultural heritage of their artisans and provides assistance to improve their overall qua
Creative Women is a fair trade certified company as a member of the Fair Trade Federation and is working with 300 artisans from countries including Ethiopia. Seventy-three percent of the artisans are women. In creating opportunities for ethnically diverse artisans groups across Ethiopia, Creative Women is helping preserve traditional techniques. Weavers remain quite a marginalized group, and weaving remains part of the informal sector. The art of weaving is disappearing as the newer generations are opting to leave the trade in search of other employment opportunities. Creative Women approaches ethical design as a counterpoint to mass production.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
Since the 2005 elections, the human rights situation in Ethiopia has gradually worsened, and the authorities in Ethiopia have shown intolerance of any criticism and they have sharply restricted the rights to free expression and association. Other substantial human rights problems include the government’s restrictions on civil society and nongovernmental organization activities; arbitrary killings; allegations of torture, beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees by security forces; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights, including illegal searches; interference in religious affairs; police, administrative, and judicial corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities; clashes between ethnic minorities; discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation and against persons with HIV/AIDS; limits on worker rights; forced labor; and child labor, including forced child labor, etc.
Despite policy instruments and legislative commitments designed to serve women’s interests and a constitution that guarantees women the same rights and protections as men, gender inequality in education, economic empowerment and political participation is still prevalent. In 2013, Ethiopia ranked in 118th place in the Global Gender Index (out of a total of 136 countries). Harmful cultural practices such as early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation, which affects 74 percent of women, are widespread. Other pervasive social problems include domestic violence and spousal abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women. In Ethiopia, more girls miss out on education than anywhere else in Africa. In urban areas women had fewer employment opportunities than men, and the jobs available did not provide equal pay for equal work. While women have recourse to the police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure prevent many women from seeking justice and legal redress.