African leader makes Forbes Most Powerful Women 2018 list
About Sahle-Work Zewde
Sahle-Work Zewde has been a dedicated diplomat for over 3 decades. She has served as Ethiopia’s ambassador to France, Djibouti, Senegal and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional trade bloc in East Africa. She has been the United Nation’s top official at the African Union. In 2018, Sahle-Work Zewde became Ethiopia’s first female president. She is also the only female head of state currently serving in Africa, although she is not the only African woman to ever serve as head of state. President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson previously ran Liberia from 2006-2018, and President Joyce Banda was in power from 2012-2014. While the position of president is largely ceremonial in Ethiopia, it carries important symbolic weight and social influence. It represents a shift in gender parity.
Senior researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies think-tank, Abebe Aynete, says of Zewde, “As a person who knows the Ethiopian system inside out, Zewde, as president, will offer more continuity in terms of policy but will have her own priorities, including female empowerment.” Aynete continues, “The fact that Zewde has become the first female Ethiopian president will be a great sign towards achieving gender equality. I consider it as a sort of a glass ceiling being broken down, showing females can also reach positions of high profile.”
Zwede has promised to focus on female empowerment and gender equality in her presidency. “If the current change in Ethiopia is headed equally by both men and women, it can sustain its momentum and realise a prosperous Ethiopia free of religious, ethnic and gender discrimination,” Zewde said in a speech in parliament on Thursday.
The 2018 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list celebrates the icons, innovators and instigators who are using their voice to change power structures and create a lasting impact. Zewde is in good company on the 15th annual Forbes list. She joins the ranks of Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.
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