THE SITUATION OF WOMEN
The economic, social and political status of women have direct bearings on the level of fertility in any society. Where women's roles are exclusively defined in terms of household management and matrimonial duties, as is the case in Ethiopia, they are subject to the expectation that they replenish the race by bearing a large number of children and assume full responsibility for maintaining them almost single handedly. Since women are, by and large, economically dependent on men, the decision to have or not have children rests, primarily in the husband and his relatives. The conscious but unarticulated realization that not all children born survive, serves as an inducement to high fertility performance in order to compensate for the high rate of attrition by death. The low female participation rate in formal education further reinforces the expectation that women play their domestic managerial and matrimonial roles to the fullest possible extent. School enrolment statistics for 1984 shoe the female participation rate to be somewhat lower than that of males (21.8% for females against 26.2% for males). Another indicator of the degree of female deprivation pertaining to access to education is the literacy rate. Census data indicate that, around 1984, female illiteracy rate was considerably higher than that of males (80.4% for the former and 65.4% for the latter). An important factor explaining the relatively low access of females to the educational system is the traditional value system placing greater premium on males than on females. Since educational resources are scarce, parents often decide to use the limited resources available to them in sending male children to school in preference to females. It must, however, be noted that there has never been any government policy to restrict female access to formal education. Another feature defining the low status of women in this country is the fact that their participation in the labor force is...
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