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.
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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.
Many have celebrated the milestone and praised Zewde’s new position as progress for both the country and the region on social media.
Ethiopia's new president, Sahle-Work Zewde... ❤✊ shout out to Ethiopia for this move and for also having 50% women in the cabinet. Rwanda as well✊ pic.twitter.com/tuvSM878Wf— Babes Womzabalazo (@NalediChirwa) October 25, 2018
Elelelelelelelelelelel! Understand the weight of this appointment: Not only is @SahleWorkZewde's Ethiopia's first female president in the modern era -- she is now also Africa's ONLY female head of state. 💚💛❤️ https://t.co/mWtfFjHrAm— Lilly Workneh (@Lilly_Works) October 25, 2018
Congratulations to my sister @SahleWorkZewde on your election as the first female President of #Ethiopia 🇪🇹. Wishing great success to you and all the people of our country. Your enthusiasm for gender equality is fundamental for #HealthForAll. pic.twitter.com/6RzrrY0Z2O— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) October 25, 2018
It can’t be more timely & fitting that a female veteran diplomat & a former #UN senior official was appointed today as the new President of #Ethiopia when #UNSC will be holding its annual Debate on Women, Peace, Security. Last briefing by @SahleWorkZewde to #UNSC in July. 👇 pic.twitter.com/7lqU5DiOIw— Dawit Yirga (@dgerima) October 25, 2018
In a historic move, the two Houses has elected Ambassador Shalework Zewde as the next President of #Ethiopia. She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia. A career diplomat & senior official at the UN, she brings the right competence & experience to the office. (1)— Fitsum Arega (@fitsumaregaa) October 25, 2018
I am proud to hear that a former UN official, Sahle-Work Zewde, has become the first female President of Ethiopia. Congratulations, Madam President! Women do make a difference. We are proud of you! #genderequality#UN4ALLpic.twitter.com/qlmkAIJJgi— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) October 25, 2018