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Ethiopia's first female President Sahle-Work Zewde stands near book of the Constitution following the handover ceremony at the Parliament in Addis Ababa on Oct. 25, 2018.
Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Girls & Women

Ethiopia Elects Its First Female President Ever


Why Global Citizens Should Care
This is a major milestone for women’s representation in Ethiopia, which recently welcomed a cabinet that is 50% female. Including women’s voices in politics and government is crucial to achieving gender equality and eliminating discrimination. You can join us by taking action here to empower girls and women.

Members of Ethiopia’s parliament — which recently achieved gender-balanced representation — elected the country’s first ever female president, Sahle-Work Zewde.

Though Zewde is not technically Ethiopia’s first female head of state, as the country boasts multiple empresses in its history, she is the first woman to hold such a position in its contemporary history. Zewde is now also the only female head of state on the African continent.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister's chief of staff announced on Thursday that Zewde had been appointed to the position after President Mulatu Teshome resigned on Wednesday.

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Step Up for Women’s Rights & Health

Though the role is largely ceremonial — the functional head of Ethiopia’s government is is its prime minister — Zewde pledged to use her position and influence to promote peace, advance gender equality, and to build a “society that rejects the oppression of women.”

"I urge you all, to uphold our peace, in the name of a mother, who is the first to suffer from the absence of peace,” Zewde said, addressing parliament.

Zewde is an experienced diplomat who has served in several roles at the United Nations, including Special Representative to the Secretary General of the African Union, and, most recently, head of the UN Office of the African Union.

Read More: Ethiopia's New Cabinet Is a Historic Win for Women in Government

Many have celebrated the milestone and praised Zewde’s new position as progress for both the country and the region on social media.