By Shannon Tyler
29 January 2019
On October 25, Ethiopia appointed Sahle-Work Zewde as their first female president. Although the presidential position in Ethiopia is more ceremonial, Zewde is expected to go far with this role especially with the lack of women’s equal rights Ethiopia has shown in the past. With this great stride and many others, the Ethiopian government is helping women across the entirety of Africa and the world.
Ethiopia has been lacking with women’s rights in the past, but the government has made many changes within itself that will likely result in the progression of gender equality in the country. Ethiopia is making great strides with human rights and progression with their first female president. Zewde was appointed to the presidency by prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed. This change in the government is a step in the direction of better human rights for Ethiopia, who ranks 173 on the Human Development Index in gender inequality. This appointment, among many others, enacted by Abiy could mean the start of a bright future for the females of Africa.
An article by The Borgen Project, a project created to help bring awareness to the global issue of girls education, stated facts known about the gender inequality in Ethiopia. These facts came from multiple studies and reports done by the United Nations, The Girl Effect, and other groups. They found that only 17 percent of females are literate compared to 42 percent of men are literate. This is the result of the inequality of education when it comes to boys and girls. In Ethiopia, for every one hundred boys, there are only seventy-seven girls in secondary school.
Education, along with many other gender-related issues, are the focus of president Sahle-Work. She stated that, “If you thought I spoke a lot about women already, know that I am just getting started.”
Zewde has great plans for her years to come as president. Although the position is seen as more ceremonial, many believe that their first female president will take the position to greater heights than ever seen before. No matter the power of the position, what is important to many is what a first female president will mean to the people and the to other countries. This is an important message to girls across Africa— that women can hold leading positions. This message emphasizes the respect of women in a society that rejects women; as well as, creating great female leaders for the young girls of Africa to look up to.
If a first female president isn’t enough influence for the women of Africa, then appointing women to half of the government’s cabinet will. Abiy, in just his first year as prime minister, has created an influential government in the country of Ethiopia by appointing women to half of the cabinet spots in the government.
This message has been heard in many places as it did in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa; but, in rural parts of Africa and around the world, the message has not been reached. There are still major problems with teen marriage and access to secondary schooling. These issues prevent women from being seen as leaders, let alone equal. With their years in the government, these are the issues hoped to be solved by the men and women in the Ethiopian government.
With the drastic changes that have taken place in the Ethiopian government, we hope to see great changes with the treatment and progression of women and their rights in the country. Ethiopia is just the start and with their leading example there are hopes for more countries to follow in their footsteps.