Ethiopia Elects First Female President


Ethiopia leads the pack in Africa’s collective strive for gender equality through the appointment of Sahle-Work Zewde as the new president of the country. Following the premature resignation of former President Mulatu Teshome on October 24, President Zewde was elected by the Parliament of Ethiopia on October 26 and has since reported for her first mission at the G20 Compact with Africa meeting in Berlin.

Given her previous posts as Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, as well as her past experience as a representative of Ethiopia in Djibouti, President Zewde has established herself as a renowned diplomat whose appointment has renewed discussions about gender parity on the African continent and international arena. Fellow Ethiopian politicians have rallied behind her, including Ethiopian Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega,  who celebrated “her appointment as setting the standard for the future but also normalizing women as decision makers in public life” in a Tweet from October 25.  Zewde’s appointment comes at a pivotal moment in the country’s trajectory as the reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made Ethiopia the third African country to have a cabinet with gender parity, the BBC reports.  

In her first speech as president, Zewde asserted that she would “emphasize women’s roles in ensuring peace and the dividends of peace for women,” explaining that women are the first to experience “the absence of peace,” as reported by Al Jazeera. Although the role of President is largely ceremonial with the Prime Minister retaining executive power, according to the Ethiopian constitution, CNN commentators have noted that Zewde has “set new standards for women in the East African region” and may be able to elevate the position of president.