Sahle-Work Zewde has been named Ethiopia’s first female president Thursday. The country’s parliament decided on it by unanimous vote during the second Special Joint Session of Ethiopia’s two houses of Parliament — the House of the People’s Representatives and the House of the Federation.
Her election to the position came a week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a gender equal cabinet where 50 percent of the posts were given to women. They include Defense Minister Aisha Mohammed and Muferiat Kamil who leads the newly-created Ministry of Peace, responsible for police and domestic intelligence agencies.
Sahle-Work vowed to make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia immediately after her swearing in. She also spoke about promoting peace. "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,” said the new president.
The prime minister's chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, tweeted that "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 normalizes women as decision-makers in public life".
Previously, Sahle-Work had represented her country as an ambassador for Ethiopia in Senegal and Djibouti. She also served as both the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general, the head of the U.N. office to the African Union, and the head of peace-building in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Sahle-Work was voted in after her predecessor Mulatu Teshome unexpectedly resigned. She will hold the ceremonial role serving under the PM Abiy Ahmed who has the real executive power in the country.