Ethiopia’s ruling political party has announced it will guarantee women 30 percent of its parliament seats, calling the move a necessary step toward “a true democracy.”

The party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, said it will also impose gender quotas in regional elections, in which half of all candidates will now have to be women.

Various opposition parties have taken similar measures in the battle leading up to the country’s next federal and regional elections in May 2005.

Currently, the composition of Ethiopia’s parliament is 42 women and 505 men, according to press reports. At just 7 percent female representation, that is less than half of the world average for female parliamentarians.

“The current number of women in parliament is just not good enough,” Ethiopia Beyene, vice chair of the Parliament’s women’s affairs standing committee, told Business in Africa Online. “Women have a major contribution to make so this is a very important step.”

For more information:

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States–
Policy and Advocacy
Policy Update – November 2003:

Choosing the Best:

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The chair of the board at Georgia’s Department of Human Resources used a public keynote address as a forum for promoting his publishing company’s line of abstinence-education products, reported Scott Henry for Creativeloafing.com.

As board chair, Bruce Cook helps determine how the Department of Health and Human Resources allocates its budget and delivers health and social services to largely low-income Georgians. He also owns Atlanta-based Choosing the Best, a publisher of abstinence-education materials used by county health departments, local school systems and some of the community-based teen centers that are operated by the department that Cook oversees.

During his keynote speech at a conference at Kennesaw State University on teen abstinence, Cook praised his company’s abstinence-education programs while strongly criticizing competing programs, many of which–unlike Choosing the Best–offer information on contraception and safe sex in addition to abstinence.

Cook was appointed board chair in September 2003. A month later the board approved a fiscal-year budget for 2004 and 2005 that cut approximately $4.7 million from the state’s adolescent health and youth development program, including teen pregnancy prevention, according to a report by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit sexual education and sexual health advocacy group.

— Robin Hindery.