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The Body: Health, Food, and Fitness in Ethiopia. Anita Spring, Professor Dept. of Anthropology University of Florida. Tadesse Mesfin: Here We Are. Population (m). 75.6. Per-capita GDP (PPP US$). 756. HDI rank ( /177). 170. Life expectancy (years). 47.8.

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anita spring professor dept of anthropology university of florida

The Body: Health, Food, and Fitness in Ethiopia

Anita Spring,


Dept. of Anthropology

University of Florida

Tadesse Mesfin: Here We Are


Population (m)


Per-capita GDP (PPP US$)


HDI rank ( /177)


Life expectancy (years)


Combined gross enrolment (%):


% of population under $2 per day


Cellular subscribers (per 1000)


Internet users (per 1000)


Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 (/163)

Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 (/163)

Corruption Perceptions Index 2006 (/163)




Press Freedom Index 2006 ( /168)

Press Freedom Index 2006 ( /168)

Press Freedom Index 2006 ( /168)





Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2006

Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2006

Source:Transparency International

Source:Transparency International

Source:Transparency International

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Source: Reporters Without Borders

  • What are the body aesthetics?
    • Traditional, conventional
    • Contemporary
  • What is the healthy body?
  • What is the unhealthy body
  • What body variations are there by
    • Types of societies, rural-urban, poor-wealthy
  • What are the multiplicity of body-related customs?
some of the multiplicity of body configurations

Some of the multiplicity of body configurations

The beautiful coffee server or entertainer

“The tribal exotic”

The result of famine and starvation

The body augmented though FGC, etc.

The rural poor: farmer and laborer

The urban wealthy: professional, housewife

The Olympic runner

body problems for girls and adolescent females

Body problems for girls and adolescent females

FGC: Infibulation, excision, clitoridectomy

Early marriage

Pregnancy at young age

Fistula and incontinence

Marriage by bride capture and rape

Domestic violence

Eshetu Tirunch: To Live or Not to Live

(women experience men’s war and violence)

the body traditional
The body: traditional
  • Low Body Mass Index (BMI) for women
  • Small body size
  • High female morbidity and mortality
    • Female Genital Cutting (FGC)
    • Parturition: obstructed labor
    • Uvulectomy, tonsillectomy: venesection
    • HIV AIDS
the body food diet nutrition
The body, food, diet, nutrition
  • Gender-differential diet
  • Poor girls and women may get
    • Less protein
    • Fewer calories
    • Fewer meals
    • Restriction on foods during pregnancy
  • No effect for better income and food-secure farmers
Refugees & displacedWomen and children: 75%-80% Poorly nourished Poor health conditionsHigh morbidity and mortality

Large numbers of internally displaced Ethiopians More women and childrenSame poor health and nutrition

reproductive health and the body

Reproductive health and the body

Total fertility: 6.1 (2000 - 2005)

• was 7.0 in 1970s

Population growth rate: 2.7%

the female body augmented fgc
The female body augmented: FGC

Cultural aesthetic:

clean, smooth, beautiful

Ethiopian school girl in meeting organized by NGO campaigning against FGC

She is worried about getting a husband if she refuses to be circumcised

Credit: IRIN

Childbirth obstruction, can result in: fistulas tearing of vaginal and/or bladder wall chronic incontinence
  • Pain, Shock
  • Hemorrhage
  • Damage to surrounding organs
  • Bladder/ Urethra Stones
  • Kidney Damage
  • Reproductive Tract Infections
  • Infertility
  • Excessive Scar Tissue
  • Urinary Tract infections
  • Intermittent Bleeding
  • Abscesses
  • Keloids & Dermoid Cysts
early marriage 12 yr old
Early Marriage—12 yr old

Her mother asked that the Marriage Contract state a delay

in consummation of the marriage until she was 15 years old

but the elders omitted it

addis ababa fistula hospital treated 25 000 women since opening and 1 200 women a year
Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital treated >25,000 women since opening and 1,200 women a year
  • Obstructed labor: Childbirth injury leading to incontinence
  • Causes: Early marriage and pregnancy
  • FGC

Oprah discussion on TV



Eyes on the Prize Averted infections are the ultimate goal

What about HIV and AIDS?

hiv aids overwhelming ethiopia
HIV/AIDS overwhelming Ethiopia

Total population 70.7 million

Living with HIV/AIDS 3 million Adults 15-49 2 millionChildren 230,000

Overall prevalence 6.6%Urban 13.7%Rural 3.7%

AIDS orphans 1.2 million

Life expectancy Fallen to 45 years

Hospital beds >50% to AIDS patients

hiv aids infection in ethiopia
HIV/AIDS Infection in Ethiopia
  • 91% of infections in adults 15-49 years
    • 21.1% prevalence in women 15-24 years
    • As high as 25% among pregnant women in urban areas
  • 170,000 HIV+ women give birth each year
  • 60,000 of their newborns infected through MTCT
physical activity traditional rural
Physical activity: traditional, rural
  • Walking, carrying--water & fuelwood
  • Agriculture
    • Planting
    • Weeding
    • Harvesting
    • Marketing
    • Herding
  • Food processing
  • Dancing!!!
    • Shoulder
    • Neck rolls
water and fuelwood carrying on back not on head
Water and fuelwood carrying on back (not on head)
  • Back injuries & deformations with age
  • Bent, not upright posture
draught poverty distribution systems
Draught, poverty, distribution systems
  • Malnutrition: mothers and children

Ethiopia faces 300,000 malnutrition deaths


Enset: Anti-famine crop

60 trees feeds 6 people

for a year

women and agriculture
Old techniques

No access to land

No access to credit or capital

Labor for their husbands

New techniques

Microcredit and microfinance projects

New income projects

Farming techniques

Improved food processing and animal husbandry

Women and agriculture
global business women
Global business women

Small businesses

EntrepreneurshipMicro to Global


Street vendors, craft makers

merkato addis ababa largest open air market in africa
Merkato Addis Ababa Largest open air market in Africa
  • Most women are in informal, micro-sector
  • Some are large, informal sector traders

Women-owned small industries related to the body Textiles, Clothing and tailoring, Food products (injera), Feminine hygiene, Beauty salon and products


Agricultural Projects

some Microfinance & Microcredit

medium and large scale traders in the informal sector

Medium and Large-scaleTraders in the Informal sector


Ethiopian Women Exporters’

US$250,000 to $1.2 Million Per year in goods

formal sector small medium textile manufacturer ethiopia

Formal Sector small-medium textile manufacturer--Ethiopia

Contracts with Ethiopian Airways and DHL

regional enterprise networks
Regional Enterprise Networks

WAEN: 350 members

West African Enterprise Network

SAEN: 100 members

Southern African Enterprise Network

EAEN: 60 members

East African Enterprise Network







In October 2000, Delegates from 31 Countries met in Ethiopia to form the

Africa Enterprise Network(AEN)

characteristics of ethiopian aen members
Characteristics of Ethiopian AEN Members
  • All escaped political turmoil in Ethiopia and lived/were educated in the U.S.
  • All are men
  • Keep in close contact with each other
  • Upper class socioeconomic status
types of businesses in eaen
Types of Businessesin EAEN
  • Rose exporter
  • CEO of Ernst & Young-Africa
  • Thread making factory
  • Coffee factory
  • Retail store: electronics & appliances
  • Bottled water
  • Transportation company, commercial buses
business enablers
Business Enablers

 Relative domestic political calm

 Entrepreneurial culture

 Overseas contacts/networks esp. in U.S., Europe, and Canada for marketing and supply

business constraints
Business Constraints

 Continuing war with Eritrea

drains resources & govt’s attention

 Very low income levels

 History of state involvement in business

 Poor physical infrastructure

 Land-locked country

High altitude enhances oxygen carrying capacity


Easily metabolized

Running a “take-off” on everyday existence and activities

World champs: win 5,000 and 10,000m

Ethiopian take all 6 medals

25-35 elite runners 50-100 in training

“By running they can be ‘known people’ and they can get money. They can get anything”Marathon coach Yilma Berta
walking is transportation for girls high altitude
Walking is transportation for girls; high altitude
  • Runners are celebrities
  • Change the notion that women should lead marginalized lives

Walk to collect firewood

and water

Walk to school

berhane adere olympic gold medal world champion in 10 000 meter
Berhane Adere,Olympic gold-medal world champion in 10,000-meter
  • New role models
  • Running Start built new classrooms

Girls and boys running at school

the new physical exercise
The new physical exercise

40-50 girls in club, but 200 run

Some without shoes

Kids go to local hotels to watch TV

tirunesh dibaba age 21 first woman to win both 5 000m and 10 000m
2006: 5000 meter Brussels


Boston Jan. 27

Madison Square Garden Feb 3

Favorite 2007 world track, Osaka

2008 summer Olympic, Beijing

Drives a BMW 750,

Earns US$.5 million/year

Tirunesh Dibaba: age 21First woman to win both 5,000m and 10,000m

The new fit and de-robed female body

Women athletes as role models

Girls being educated and running

Will these change ideas about the female body?

Tirunesh Dibaba set a world indoor record in the women’s 5,000 meters in Boston February 1, 2007
questions to be asked
Will running:

Reduce FGC?

Reduce severest FGC?

Reduce domestic violence/harm?

Be linked to greater AIDs awareness?

Reduce birth rate?

Increase general fitness?

Will running increase girls’ and women’s





Political participation?

Economic activities?


Questions to be asked: