Feminist Series — Economist’s View on Obstacles To Equality

4 min readOct 15, 2021


By Dr Kaleab Haile

I am a development economist committed to feminism. My two previous blogs (here and here) discuss how gender norms dictate the gendered impact of aggregate shocks on human capital in sub-Saharan Africa. Prevailing biased norms and traditions delegate the majority of household tasks and responsibilities to women which impedes their ability to be educated and engage in paid work. As such, gender bias creates inequality in resource allocation within a household and widens the gender gap in human development.

Preserve Tradition Yet Ensure Equality For Women

Biased traditions that govern gender roles and attitudes are certainly a cause of human rights’ violations. They deter girls’ and women’s rights to education, and the right to freely participate in the social, economic, and political spheres. However, there are traditions related to moral values that improve social functioning and serve as a source of uniqueness for a society. For instance, it is a tradition in Ethiopia to stand and say “nour’’ when an elder (regardless of gender) enters the room. This is a mark of respect. Similarly, when someone arrives while people are dining, it is a tradition to invite the newcomer to join them by saying “enibla”. These two traditions are founded on the principle of care and respect, and to the best of my knowledge, treat women and men equally. Such kinds of gender-neutral traditions, which promote mutual respect and care, could be replicated in other day-to-day activities such as unpaid care work (domestic services, caregiving to household members, and community service). Men and boys should say “nour” to not let girls and women do unpaid care work alone. Similarly, they should embrace a tradition of “enisra” — let’s do the care work together — before “enibla”.

© Dr Kaleab Haile

Feminism and Me

When Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who recognises the equality and full humanity of women and men” and Justin Trudeau explained, “I’m a feminist because a feminist is someone who believes men and women should be equal and believes that there’s a lot more work to do to get there,” it was as if they were speaking for me.

Although from different generations, both show that the feminist movement seeks to ensure social, economic, and political equality between women and men. It is a commitment to fight for women’s rights and enhance their agency to make decisions that have positive consequences on their own lives. I believe feminism embraces issues related to securing basic human rights and unleashing the full potential of women. The key aspects that are embedded within feminist movements include: women’s right to lead their lives free from physical and sexual violence; equal pay for men and women for the same work; and the right to have equal political representation. The feminist movement is also about tackling non-obvious and even unconscious gender bias and sexist social norms and traditions. Thus, as far as I am concerned, feminism is a genuine effort to safeguard the physical, mental, and socio-economic wellbeing of our mothers, sisters and daughters, and at the same time empower them to contribute in the social, economic and political arena without any limits. In this light, I am a feminist as I share the core values and ideologies of the movement. It also matches my career ambition to be part of the global and national efforts to halt norms and traditions that fuel feminised intergenerational poverty transmission.

An Equal World for Our Sons and Daughters

As a father of two children, one of each gender, it would have been the most unfair and disgraceful thing to do if I had treated them differently in terms of their access to opportunities. It is heart-aching to know that we still have communities in Ethiopia where women and girls are treated as inferior to boys and men, and consequently they are denied their rights to basic goods and services. In this context, I for one strongly believe that the future towards an equal world for our sons and daughters can be achieved if we see everyone in our country as a member of a huge egalitarian family. This may avoid distancing ourselves from the suffering and vulnerabilities that women and girls disproportionately bear.

Dr Kaleab Haile is a development economist who works as a Principal Researcher at Includovate. He has a PhD in Economics and Governance from Maastricht University and a Masters of Science in Agricultural Economics from Haramaya University. He is passionate about the transformation of poor and vulnerable households in sub-Saharan Africa. He is interested in climate change, gender, agriculture, food and nutrition security, human capital development, income inequality, and financial and social inclusion.

Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.




Connecting and empowering people to overcome the norms that lead to poverty, inequality and injustice.