Girls' Education in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is located in sub-Saharan Africa just west of Somalia. Poverty levels have been decreasing in the country since the early 2000s, but the female education levels are still struggling to raise their percentages. The main cause of the female dropout rate, menstruation, is high in pre-teen and early teen ages. Approximately one in ten girls in Ethiopia and sub-Sahara Africa as a whole begin missing school during their menstruation cycles. The total amount of days missed adds up to an average of around twenty percent of the school year. Girls miss school during this time because of lack of access to proper menstruation hygiene products. Many girls drop out during this time while those who stay struggle to keep up in their studies. Because of this, one company aims to protect girls’ education in Ethiopia.

Stigma Attached with Menstruation

The UNICEF records that the topic of a women’s menstruation is not taught in most schools and girls do not talk with each other about it, either. Along with these factors, sanitary hygiene for women is expensive or unavailable, and more than half of Ethiopian women do not have access to the necessary menstrual supplies needed to manage their periods. Instead, most girls use dried grass or rags to deal with their periods.

Dignity Period and Freweini Mabrahtu

The company advocating practically for girls’ education in Ethiopia is called Dignity Period. Its founders are Dr. Lewis Wall and his wife. The company receives its products from the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, which is run by Freweini Mebrahtu. Mebrahtu designed a fully washable pad that can last up to two years and costs around ninety percent less than a year’s worth of disposable pads. The pads have cotton linings and waterproof backings, and they are secured to underwear with a small button and come in a discreet package that folds securely to keep them clean. Mebrahtu claims that in Ethiopia, most girls do not speak of their periods because it is considered a taboo subject and is particularly shameful.

Education on Menstruation

Not only does Mebrahtu run the factory that produces these reusable pads, but she also educates students on women’s menstruation. Her goal is to defeat the stigma around a women’s period so that girls can feel comfortable and safe about their bodies’ natural processes. Mebrahtu also educates boys for this reason. She holds an educated gathering of students at school where she teaches boys and girls about the naturalness of a woman’s period. Afterward, Mebrahtu teaches individual girls how to use the pads and keep themselves clean during their periods.

Changing the ways in which society thinks about a woman’s period is how Dignity Period is influencing girls’ education in Ethiopia. Mebrahtu wants girls to no longer feel ashamed about their body’s natural processes and to give them the freedom and ability to stay in school and be able to achieve their dreams.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

The Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Ethiopia
Gender disparity in education and lack of opportunity for girls worldwide create an inequality tide difficult to turn in different direction.

Ethiopia is among the 10 lowest-literacy countries in the world, and the literacy rate for girls is much lower than for boys.

However, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia reveal the efforts of many international and internal projects developing female literacy and expanding the networks connecting education sites.

Research shows that as more gender-sensitive education advances, higher education of women becomes possible, supporting social change, decreasing the gender gap, fostering more female teachers and building self-reliance and self-esteem.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ethiopia

  1. According to UNESCO, one out of three children in sub-Saharan Africa is out of school, and girls are more likely to miss education than boys. Ethiopia follows this grim description, with only 31 percent of the total adolescent population enrolled in secondary education in 2015. Only 47 percent of females aged 15-24 years old are literate, compared to 63 percent of males the same age.
  2. In 2014, completion of the last grade of primary education was slim, with boys completing at 37 percent and girls finishing at 39 percent. These numbers show that girls are more likely to complete primary school once enrolled.
  3. The nation has one of the highest primary school enrollment rates in Africa. Percentage of girls enrollment in primary schools was around 60 percent in 2015, a huge increase from 19 percent of girls who enrolled in the same education level in 1990.
  4. Total government expenditure on education in 2015 was 4.7 percent of GDP and has fallen by more than 1 percent since 2012. The World Bank’s data shows the government is still developing ways to support sustainable education as Ethiopia depends more on its infrastructure.
  5. Socio-cultural factors include poverty and displacement. Often times, the students’ families cannot afford school supplies or afford to live far away from any educational facilities. Refugee families often must prioritize food and shelter above school fees. The organization Girl Up partners with the U.N. to bring solar lamps, supplies and scholarships to Somali refugee girls, also providing safe bathroom facilities for local schools.
  6. The lack of female educators can affect girls’ esteem since there are more men than women teachers in the country. Only 5.2 percent of women continue to tertiary school enrollment, as opposed to almost 11 percent of men. This means fewer women will go on to become professional teachers. In 2012, only 36.7 percent of primary school teachers were female. One-third of female teachers work in grades 1-4 in urban areas, only 11 percent of female teachers for grades 5-8 work in rural areas. Less female teachers exist in areas where girls need them the most.
  7. Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, an act initiated by UNESCO, aims to promote equality in education by working to inspire gender-sensitive teachers and encourage girls to complete higher education. As of 2014, girls’ rates of academic performance increases in entrepreneurship, ITC skills, life skills and comprehensive sex education.
  8. The education gender gap in the Benishangul-Gumuz regional state measures higher than the national average. A project titled Crowdsourcing Girls’ Education cosponsored by the government and the Packard Foundation addresses this specific region. This project aims to empower 1,000 adolescent girls through educational programs. UNESCO also partners with country-wide organizations like the African Union – International Centre for the Education of Girls and Women in Africa (AU/CIEFFA), completing workshops with girls in vulnerable areas. The projects work to prevent gender-related violence at school, teach self-reliance and problem-solving and create safe environments.
  9. The rates of early marriage and pregnancy are higher in rural areas of Ethiopia. Unable to continue school, pregnant girls in rural areas deal with poverty, inequality or discrimination, lack of education and facilities. As of 2013, 57.7 percent of girls were marrying before the legal age of 18. In a survey taken in 2015, 3.7 percent of girls aged 15-19 in rural areas were pregnant, compared to 0.6 percent of girls in urban areas.
  10. In 2011, UNESCO launched the Better Life, Better Future Partnership, pursuing equality through programs including the gender-responsive education projects through a partnership with the HNA group and Hainan Chiang Foundation in China. These projects prioritize education accessible to all and purposefully work against school violence to create safe environments for girls. Spread throughout seven different sub-Saharan countries, the project in Ethiopia works to rebuild three higher learning institutions and 12 upper and secondary schools.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia illustrate the rates of female illiteracy and school dropout in schools and universities. The discrepancy between opportunities for boys and girls shows the amount of work still needed to close the gender gap.

However, more understanding of the issue leads to the government working with education programs and involving the community. Other beneficial steps include literacy programs and specialized schooling to build esteem for young women. The challenge lies in accessibility, policy and encouraging certain rural communities to embrace girls’ education as essential.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in Ethiopia
Home to 102 million people, Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa, possesses the fastest growing economy in the region and is also one of the poorest countries. Girls’ education in Ethiopia is largely affected by the present poverty; in fact, it is one of the main barriers to girls’ and women’s education. There are socio-cultural factors — social norms and traditional practices — gender-based violence, early marriage, and teenage pregnancy that greatly affect girls’ and women’s access to, and completion of, education.

Offering basic education is one effective way of providing girls with power, autonomy and independence to make genuine choices over the lives, their families and their community. These top ten facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia address the difficulties these girls face, as well as the improvements in recent years that benefit Ethiopia as a whole.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Ethiopia

  1. For every hundred boys in secondary school, there are only seventy-seven girls.
  2. Only 17 percent of women are literate, whereas 42 percent of men can read and write.
  3. Females only make up 27 percent of the university population, a quarter of whom will drop out before graduation.
  4. The fear of sexual favoritism limits girls’ freedom of participation and interaction with others in school settings.
  5. Primary school attendance rates have risen from 30.2 percent in 2000/01 to 64.5 percent in 2010/11.
  6. The primary school enrollment rate of girls has increased from 21 to 49 percent in the last two decades.
  7. The education of girls contributes to higher economic activity as Ethiopian women are more likely to give back to their communities.
  8. The education of girls results in lower infant mortality and morbidity, lower fertility rates and the attainment of longer life expectancy for both men and women.
  9. There is a greater likelihood that the children of educated girls will become educated themselves.
  10. Receiving an education means girls can avoid long work hours and work towards a better future, instilling self-empowerment.

Impacts of Girls’ Education

These top ten facts about girls’ education in Ethiopia shed light on the importance of education for the well-being of these girls and this region. An educated girl in Ethiopia is more likely to avoid early marriage, seek healthcare and become a more independent and well-off individual.

With this independence, a girl will become more involved in her community and prepared for future decision-making. She will also have an increased chance of being accepted into a higher-paying job and could then reinvest 80-90 percent of her wages back into her family and community, aiding in breaking the cycle of poverty.


Girls and women in Ethiopia have seen successes due in part to organizations such as GirlUp — the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign. The organization aims to give adolescent girls in developing countries an equal chance for education, health, social and economic opportunities and a life free from violence.

Since refugee families in Ethiopia are not allowed to work, girls are oftentimes unable to attend school as families cannot afford the costs of school uniforms and books. With the help of GirlUp, the United Nations is working to make sure that Somali refugee girls in Ethiopia are healthy, safe and educated. This program not only provides Ethiopian girls with school materials, solar lamps to study at night, toilets and access to water, but it also provides scholarships for girls to attend school.

– Angelina Gillispie

Photo: Flickr