History was made in Ethiopia on Thursday when former United Nations official Sahle-Work Zewde became the nation’s first woman to be elected president. The appointment of the veteran diplomat comes amidst a “pink wave” in Africa’s second-most populated country, with the full support of Ethiopia’s progressive new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who was elected in April.
Since that time, there have been significant shifts in the government, with half of Ethiopia’s cabinet posts now held by women, including the Ministry of Peace, which controls the country’s intelligence agency and security forces.
As reported by the Washington Post, while accepting her position as Ethiopia’s first female head of state, Sahle-Work, 68, promised to work towards peace and unity, as well as a “society that rejects the oppression of women.”
In addition to becoming Ethiopia’s first woman president, which some note has historically been a mostly ceremonial role, Sahle-Work is also currently Africa’s only female head of state.
In a series of tweets, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, lauded Sahle-Work’s appointment and experience, writing, in part: “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.”