I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lives of women in Ethiopia. My seretegna has been teaching me to cook some Ethiopian dishes. Food prep is time consuming and laborious here. For the most part, food must be prepared fresh daily from scratch. Microwaves, dishwashers and refrigerators are completely out of reach for most Ethiopians. Small stones and other debris must be picked out of lentils and other pulses prior to cooking. Most people use a small clay stove filled with charcoal for cooking on. As we were prepping the vegetables, she showed me how a carrot should be properly sliced. Traditionally the core of the carrot is removed and only the outer layers cooked in the dish. This seemed slightly over-the-top to me. Does including the slightly less-flavorful, at-times-woody core of a carrot really ruin a dish? But, evidently, not coring the carrot would be a sign of laziness or plain not a good cook and therefore not optional. Social pressure is pretty big here and the whole “well, she doesn’t core her carrots!” kind of talk (or perhaps fear of that talk) is illustrative of this fact.
perfectly chopped carrots
Obviously, being pressured to marry at 14 and having children shortly thereafter (Ethiopia’s birth rate is 4.64 children per woman) isn’t exactly helping promote women’s rights either. There’s a saying about the social status of women in Ethiopia. It goes something like… A man and a woman were coming home from collecting firewood with their donkey. The man rides the donkey while the woman carries the heavy load of sticks on her back. While the lives of Ethiopian women are changing, especially in the cities, it is an illustration of some of the gender inequality that goes on here. Ethiopia ranked 118 out of 136 countries on the global gender gap scale
So, while not the worst place to be, it certainly has a way to go. I remember when I visited here in 2005, there were Unicef posters in all the major towns promoting education for girls. This time around I have heard there is an all-girl, Spice Girls-esque Ethiopian pop group that preaches gender equality. No Pussy Riot but its a start. Condom/birth control advertisements are everywhere. On a personal note, I would say the level of street harassment has been about the same compared to 9 years ago. Although Dan said he was recently propositioned while buying, what else? Carrots. So that goes both ways it seems.
Me? I’m still probably not going to core my carrots. You can talk about me all you like.