Ethiopia Appoints First Female President

Ethiopia’s parliament has appointed Sahle-Work Zewde as it’s first female President. Formerly head of the African Union and special representative to the U.N. Secretary-General, Sahle-Work, 68, replaces Mulatu Teshome, who, earlier this month, resigned from the presidency.

Both houses of Ethiopia’s parliament voted unanimously to appoint Sahle-Work, making her Africa’s only serving female head of state. Her presidency is only one example of the progressive reforms the country has seen as of late. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently appointed a new 20 member cabinet, with half of them being women.

In her first speech to Parliment, Sahle-Work talked about gender equality in government, encouraged unity between government parties and affirmed her goal of making peace for women a priority in her administration. “The absence of peace victimizes firstly women, so during my tenure, I will emphasize women’s roles in ensuring peace and the dividends of peace for women.”

Sahle-Work is expected to serve two six-year terms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The Realist Woman’s take:

What a great move and example for Ethiopia, women, and Africa! The last time Ethiopia had a woman leading their country was back in 1916 with Empress Zewditu. A century later, Sahle-Work is the only female serving head of state in Africa. That’s amazing and at the same time, not good enough when we’re talking about an entire continent full of highly intelligent, educated and extremely capable women to take hold of the reigns.

Sahle-Work worked for years as a diplomat and has rightfully earned her way into this position. In her first speech to Parliment, she made sure women knew that they, their voices, their stories, and their existence are a top priority to her.

Women, especially in countries where women leading in government is not the norm, want someone who sees them, hears them, understands them and is on their side. Sahle-Work is that woman. I’m excited to learn more about her and to see what she will accomplish in this very important role.

I wish her the best because Ethiopia has a lot of work to do involving women’s issues. Female Genital Mutilation, educational disparities, access to adequate medical care, education on HIV prevention, a lack of economic opportunities and gender-based violence against women are all problems that need to not only be addressed, but they need action from government leaders.