PoliticsSex & Gender

as it should be: ethiopia’s cabinet now half women

October 17, 2018
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Ethiopia just underwent an epic cabinet shuffle that resulted in half of the government positions going to women. Newly minted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s cabinet reform is a genuine, concerted effort to establish parity in the Ethiopian government in an attempt to usher in a time of peace in a nation recovering from authoritarianism.

The Guardian reported that Former Minister of Construction Aisha Mohammed was named the defense minister — the first woman to hold that role in the country’s history. Ahmed also announced the launch of a new Ministry of Peace that would be led by former parliamentary speaker Muferiat Kamil who will oversee intelligence and security agencies in order to guard against authoritarianism and address ethnic unrest. “The main problem in this country is the lack of peace. This [peace] ministry will be working hard to ensure it prevails,” Abiy told lawmakers.

Ahmed has ushered in a wave of radical reform since his appointment in April that includes freeing thousands of political prisoners, unblocking hundreds of websites and TV channels and, most notably, reaching a peace agreement with neighbor Eritrea. Ahmed has also extended an olive branch to rebel groups responsible for the wave of ethnic violence that has displaced 1.4 million of Ethiopia’s population.

Women have served on Ethiopia’s cabinet before, but rarely in high-level positions. “In the new cabinet, in addition to defense and security, women will head the ministries of trade, transport and labor, as well as culture, science and revenue,” wrote The Washington Post. Ethiopia suffers from a deeply ingrained culture of patriarchy so the shuffle is an important move towards genuine gender equality. “Our women ministers will disprove the adage that women can’t lead,” Abiy said in Parliament.

The shuffle also addresses representation of Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic makeup by including previously marginalized groups, moving away from a culture of dominance by a few ethnic groups. “Muslims were historically underrepresented,” he said. “It is a good move. It projects a good image. It’s inspiring in many ways,” commented analyst Hallelujah Lulie

Ahmed’s vision for Ethiopia flies in the face of a world descending into authoritarianism. As Orwellian as it sounds, a “Ministry of Peace” seems like the “perfect-world” alternative to defense departments with budgets that can solve world hunger. Women in power is the next wave of global dominance and at the forefront of that movement is an African nation showing the world that all peace needs in order to thrive is the opportunity.



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