PoliticsSex & Gender

progressive-fave ethiopia elects a woman president

October 25, 2018
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Sahle-Work Zewde was just appointed as the first woman president in Ethiopian modern history. Zewde is currently the only woman Head Of State in Africa after being elected by Ethiopian parliament, according to the Washington Post. The announcement comes in the wake of a wave of peace-driven reform enacted by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who recently made HALF of his cabinet women.

President Zewde (chills) is a veteran of diplomacy, having worked for the United Nations as head of peace-building in the Central African Republic and UN representative in the African Union. The position of president in Ethiopia is ceremonial according to the country’s constitution but Zewde’s experience opens up the possibility for the Head of State to elevate the role.

The elevation seems to be underway because President Zewde has made it very clear that she is here to empower women, using her first remarks in parliament to emphasize the importance of respecting women and building a “society that rejects the oppression of women.” Is this real life? She even added that anyone who has a problem with her constantly talking about women should just get ready for more. Let em know, Madame President!

Since his appointment as Prime Minister in April of this year, Abiy Ahmed has transformed Ethiopia from an authoritarian state by releasing political prisoners, unblocking websites, inviting back websites and electing women to the most powerful positions in a government that now has an entire ministry dedicated to peace.

As much as the role of the president is ceremonial, her appointment is significant for gender equality in a country with “high levels of violence against women,” according to Sehin Teferra, co-founder of feminist Setaweet movement. “We are always in the top of the gender inequality index, and we do very badly in terms of representation,” she said, adding that government is making a powerful statement with the new cabinet and president.

Appointing one or two women is a far cry from putting women in positions of power in terms of representation, and that distinction makes all the difference on the road to a world free of gender-inequality. Ethiopia is walking the walk and giving Africa and the world a blueprint for what it looks like when a country genuinely prioritizes equality and peace. Iconic.

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