Contributions of Women’s Organizations’ to Women’s Empowerment: Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) in Focus
Now a day’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) plays a vital role in connecting the government with the community and filling the gaps of the government. Women’s organizations (WOs), such as the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), have been advocating for women's rights Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) through lobbying government institutions and society. Besides, Women’s Empowerment, gender equality, democracy, and good governance have recently been prominent subjects in academic debates. The main objective of this study is to assess contribution of women’s organizations for WEGE by taking EWLA as a case. It also argues that WEGE is instrumental to responsive government and sustainable democracy, as it rests on the imperatives for inclusive policies and the political decision-making process. With a critical feminist viewpoint, the study combines a qualitative approach, a case study research design, purposive sampling and interprets analysis to analyze data gathered through interviews of 12 individuals (from EWLA, Ministry of Women, children and Social Affairs, CSOs and stakeholders) and document analysis. The findings entail that, EWLA has provided legal assistance to over 200,000 mothers and a considerable number of children, over 9,000 women applied to EWLA to receive legal aid in various forms per year, more than 80,000 people engaged in EWLA's awareness-creation activities, and over five million people benefited from the collaborative efforts of EWLA till 2020. Besides, EWLA research on laws focusing on inclusion of women's rights and use as a base for revision of family law, civil and criminal code, land right and use, rights of children to mention some. However, EWLA faced financial challenges, particularly between 2009 and 2019, the challenge of accessibility, social norms, and lack of strong collaboration with other WOs. Hence, it is imperative to craft more compressive policy alternatives and programs; empowering women to ensure inclusion of their fair representation, views, interests, and experiences; empowering girls at early ages; bringing attitudinal change in society; and enhancing democracy and merit-based political recruitment. Besides, using context-based solutions for culture-based barriers of WEGE is essential. Therefore, allowing democratic CSOs to fill the gaps left by the government has a major contribution to the growth of democracy.