Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sahle-Work Zewde voted in as Ethiopia’s first woman president

Career diplomat, Sahle-Work Zewde, was unanimously voted in as Ethiopia’s first woman president on 25 October. 

Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The appointment came after Mulatu Teshome’s unexpected resignation and brought with it further increased female representation in Ethiopia’s government, making Sahle-Work Africa’s only woman head of state.

Sahle-Work, 68, vowed right from the start to promote gender equality in Africa’s second most populous nation. She told MP’s that if they feel as though she talks too much about women empowerment, she had only just begun.

She believes that “the absence of peace victimises firstly women” and will use her time in office – expected to be two six-year terms – to promote women’s roles in society by “ensuring peace.”

Chief of Staff Fitsum Arega said on Twitter that her appointment was a historic move and that as a “career diplomat & senior official at the UN, she brings the right competence & experience to the office.” He added:

“In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalises women as decision-makers in public life.”

In an address to Parliament, Sahle-Work thanked Mulatu for leading the way to change and hope, and urged everyone to “heed his example and be ready for change.”

Ethiopians have welcomed the news with Belachew Mekuria, former Commissioner of Ethiopian Investment Commission, saying on Twitter that having a woman as the head of state “symbolises unity of purpose.”

Leoul Mekonen said the appointment made him proud and that as an Ethiopian living in Norway, gender equality “is like the air we breath.”

Dagmawit Abebe said it marked a historical day for all Ethiopians and added that young girls now have someone to look up to, and perhaps inspire them to pursue a career in politics:

“It can be done!! You can be a president. I’m so so so happy.”