A Seat At The Table

Sahle-Work Zewde elected as the first ever female president of Ethiopia’s democratic dispensation.

After a five-year tenure, former president Mulatu Teshome stepped down from office on Wednesday 24 October 2018. His resignation follows Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s cabinet reshuffle. Ahmed has rearranged the Cabinet to have 50% of seats occupied by women.

On 25 October 2018; Zewde was unanimously elected as the new president of Ethiopia. She is a veteran in the International Relations and Foreign Affairs sector of Ethiopia, with her career spanning back to the late 1980s. She served as ambassador to various countries including Senegal, Gambia and France. She has served as a permanent representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the African union (AU).

As the 4th president of the democratic era of Ethiopia, Zewde has a tall task ahead of her, one she is skilled to fulfil. She is not new to holding a position of leadership, in 2011 Ban Ki-moon appointed Zewde as Director-General of the UN Office in Nairobi. In June 2018 she was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations; the third highest ranked position in the UN.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is the Head of Government, which means that he is in charge of government operations. As the newly appointed president, Zewde is the Head of State, meaning that she is the chief representative of the country (she holds a ceremonial position) and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The responsibilities of the prime minister and president vary in each country. The Prime Minister, together with the members of Parliament formulate and propose policies. No policy or bill can be passed without the assent of the President. The President can grant amnesty, whereas the Prime Minister cannot interfere in judicial decisions.


Reasons Why We Love That Ethiopia Has Elected A Female President

Representation: Ethiopia’s parliament currently constitutes of 50% women. For women’s issues to be heard, women need to be there to have a say and voice their own struggles. Women need the space to tell their own struggles, using their own voices.

Progression: Her appointment indicates that one’s sex should not be a qualifying nor determining factor when appointing people into leadership positions. It further indicates that women are as capable (if not more) as men are in politics.

Occupation of high positions: Zewde’s appointment further indicates the importance of having women in decision-making positions and not merely assisting men in positions of leadership.

Qualification: Her resume precedes her, indicating why she is a competent candidate for this position. We do not just want women in leadership, we want women who can do the job. Having worked in various international organizations, we are reassured that she will get the job done and done efficiently so.

Affiliation: She is an independent candidate with no affiliation with any political party. Having someone who is nonpartisan in a position of leadership decreases the disparities between party loyalty and loyalty to the people. Zwede’s appointment makes us hopeful that effective and visible change will come about in Ethiopia; which other African states can learn from.

This not only a giant step for Ethiopia, but one for Africa as a whole. Sahle-Work Zewde is currently the only female head of state in Africa. The future is indeed female.


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