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Cablegate: Ethiopian Women's Parliamentary Caucus Reflects Eprdf's

VZCZCXRO1578
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #1924/01 1720848
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210848Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6683
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 001924

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KWMN ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIAN WOMEN'S PARLIAMENTARY CAUCUS REFLECTS EPRDF'S
FOCUS ON RECRUITING WOMEN

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Established in 2006, the Ethiopian Women's
Parliamentary Caucus comprises one-fifth of the members of
Ethiopia's House of Peoples' Representatives (117 of 547 seats), and
underscores how the number of women in Ethiopia's Parliament has
tripled following the May 2005 national elections. The Caucus
receives USAID-funded technical assistance, and seeks to establish
linkages with similar caucuses and NGOs in Africa. Of the Caucus's
117 members, all but 9 are affiliated with the ruling Ethiopian
Revolutionary People's Democratic Front (EPRDF), reflecting the
EPRDF's focus on recruiting women. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Poloff and representatives of donor partners (including
Canada, India, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Sweden, UK, and UN agencies)
attended a June 11 meeting of the Ethiopian Women's Parliamentary
Caucus. Established in September 2006, the caucus aims to increase
gender parity; build political and academic capacity of female MPs;
increase the participation of women in political activities,
leadership, and decision-making; and enhance women's legislative
representation. Caucus activities include: capacity-building,
national and international networking, information dissemination,
research, and media outreach.

--------------------------------------
WOMEN COMPRISE ONE-FIFTH OF PARLIAMENT
--------------------------------------

3. (U) According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as of March 31,
Ethiopia ranked 45th worldwide in the number of women seated in the
lower house of Parliament. Following the May 2005 national
elections, the number of women in Ethiopia's House of Peoples'
Representatives (Parliament) rose from 7.7 to 21 percent (or from 42
to 117 of 547 seats). The Parliament's Deputy Speaker, Shitaye
Minale, is a woman, as is one of the four assistant whips with the
rank of state minister: deputy whip for the ruling Ethiopian
People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Netsanet Afsaw.
Women chair two of the Parliament's 13 standing committees, and
comprise one-fourth (56 of the 234 members) of the standing
committees' members. Out of the five Ethiopian members of the Pan
African Parliament, two are women, one of whom serves as chair.

---------------------------------------
ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE AND MEMBERSHIP
---------------------------------------

4. (U) The Caucus has established formal rules and regulations and
elected a leadership comprised of five executive members
(chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, and two standing
members). Deputy Speaker Shitaye Minale, affiliated with the Amhara
National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and thus the ruling EPRDF,
chairs the Caucus; EPRDF whip Netsanet Afsaw serves as deputy chair.
The Caucus has four 5-person committees: public and foreign
relations, capacity building, fundraising, and audit/control. The
Caucus has three categories of membership: Ethiopian women
parliamentarians, associate members (who subscribe to and share the
caucus's goals and principles), and honorary members (who have made
a substantial contribution to the caucus).

5. (U) With USAID funding, U.S.-based NGO Women's Campaign
International (WCI) has supported the caucus since January 2006.
WCI is providing technical assistance to help the caucus develop a
four-year strategic plan; write proposals and develop promotional
material; link with other women's caucuses in Africa; develop a
directory of women's NGOs and civil society groups in Africa; and
provide training. WCI is also organizing study tours for Ethiopian
women parliamentarians to learn from the experience of women's
caucuses in South Africa and Uganda.

6. (U) Of the caucus's four committees, only two are operational:
the Fundraising Committee is awaiting feedback from caucus
leadership and other committees prior to launching activities, while
the Audit/Control Committee is awaiting budget information before it
proceeds. According to caucus members, the Public and Foreign
Relations Committee has a 4-month plan to develop caucus activities,
and seeks to raise public awareness of its activities by
disseminating a brochure and coordinating with the media. The
Capacity-Building Committee has begun gathering data on lessons
learned in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Malawi, but has not yet
conducted any in-depth analysis and reporting. It is seeking
international support for further training and more informal
networking opportunities.

----------------------------------------
WOMEN'S CAUCUS DOMINATED BY RULING EPRDF
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) COMMENT: The June 11 meeting primarily served as an
opportunity for Caucus leaders to introduce the Caucus to donors and
avoided any substantive discussion of contentious issues currently

ADDIS ABAB 00001924 002 OF 002


before Parliament or being debated in the media (e.g., the June 11
conviction of opposition leaders on insurrection charges; Ethiopian
military intervention in Somalia; or Parliament's recent passage by
majority vote of a new broadcast law, despite an earlier agreement
between opposition and ruling EPRDF leaders that it would be subject
to inter-party negotiation). The ruling EPRDF coalition dominates
the Ethiopia's Women's Parliamentary Caucus. While WCI's proposal
for establishing the Caucus had called for an opposition MP to serve
as the Caucus?s deputy, both the Caucus's chair and deputy chair are
affiliated with the EPRDF. Of the 90 women MPs who attended the
June 11 Caucus meeting, only 3 were members of the opposition.
According to WCI, of the 117 women parliamentarians, only 9 are not
members of the ruling EPRDF. Senior EPRDF officials frequently
criticize opposition parties for failing to focus as aggressively on
women as the EPRDF does. END COMMENT.

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