President Sahle-Work Zewde : The First Of Her Kind

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Nwaezuoke Chisom Anastasia
Chisom Anastasia Nwaezuoke is a physiotherapist, writer, public speaker and yogi. She is also a sexual health and reproductive rights advocate and volunteers for HandsOff Initiative.

Some people would argue that her position is merely a ceremonial one but the fact remains that Sahle-Work Zewde is the first woman to achieve such a feat. She is currently the president of Ethiopia and the first woman to occupy that office.

President Sahle-Work Zewde
President Sahle-Work Zewde

In Ethiopia, the executive power is vested in the office of the prime minister while the office of the President is a ceremonial one voted for by the House of People’s Representatives. Her constitutional duties as the president of Ethiopia include granting pardons and accrediting diplomatic functionaries among others.

Sahle-Work Zewde was elected president on the 25th of October 2018 and was preceded by Mulatu Teshome who served as President of Ethiopia from the 7th of October 2013 to 25th October, 2018 and had resigned unexpectedly. In this article, we explore the education, career growth of Sahle-Work Zewde and her influence in Ethpian politics so keep reading!

Sahle-Work Zewde’s Education

Sahle-Work Zewde was born in the capital and largest city in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. She spent most her childhood and adolescent years in the city receiving her secondary school education at Lycée Guebr-Mariam in Addis Ababa.

After that, she relocated briefly to France where she received a degree in natural science at the University of Montpellier, France. She is Trilingual and speaks fluent English, French and Amharic (an Ethiopian Semitic language).

Sahle-Work Zewde’s Career

Sahle -Work Zewde didn’t immediately dive into major politics and in fact started her career as a diplomat, serving as an ambassador to many African counties and regions. She broke history and became the second woman to be appointed as an ambassador in Ethiopia; the first being Yodit Emiru.

The representation of women in Ethopia foreign service is a huge step towards achieving equal representation of women in politics and even though it may seem like a baby step, it is a step in the right direction.

She spent many years working in the Ethiopian foreign service and served as the Ethiopian ambassador to Senegal from 1989 to 1993. She was  also the Ethopian ambassador to Djibouti for nine long years (1993 to 2002) while being a permanent representative to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Moving to higher portfolios, she worked as the permanent representative to UNESCO from 2002 to 2006 and during her service was accredited to Tunisia and Morocco. She also served as the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the AU( Afrivan Union) and ECA (Economic Commission for Africa). She was also the Director General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.

Having worked in Ethiopian diplomacy for over thirty years, Sahle-Work Zewde has a ton of experience and critics have opined that her experience would make her an effective president and reliable spokesperson for the country.

Before her election as the President of Ethiopia, she worked in the United Nations, occupying positions. She served as the Head of the United Nations Integrated Peace-building Office at Nairobi (UNON) until 2011 when the Secretary General of the United States, Ban Ki-moon appointed her to be the Director General of the UNON filling the shoes of Achim Steiner. She worked as Director General till 2018 when she was succeeded by Hanna Tetteh. She also broke another record in 2018 when she became the first woman to be the Head of The United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU).

On the 25th of October, 2018, she became the first ever female President of Ethiopia and the only woman to become Head of State in Africa. She is expected to serve as president for two six-year terms.

Gender Equality in Ethiopia

Following Zewde’s appointment as the President of Ethiopia, the world began to celebrate what looks like the beginning of a new era of gender equality in Ethiopia. The current Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed seems to be an advocate of female representation in politics as he has appointed a good number of women into offices that would normally have gone to men including the office of the Defence Minister which went to Aisha Mohammed making her the first woman to occupy this position in Ethiopia.

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