The world is filled with a great wealth of incredible black women who are driven and audacious about breaking glass ceilings by entering previously unventured territories such as business, politics and many more. These women are bringing heels and pencil skirts into the boardroom. And they are unapologetic about it. One thing they all have in common is that they are Black Women
One such woman is the recently appointed president of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zwede. In a history-making move, Ethiopia appointed Sahle-Work Zwede as its first female president on 25th October 2018, making her the only current female head of state in Africa. Her appointment came a week after 50 per cent of Ethiopia’s cabinet positions were filled by women. Ethiopia’s prime minister reshuffled his cabinet by appointing 10 female ministers, making Ethiopia the third country in Africa, after Rwanda and Seychelles, to achieve gender parity in their cabinets.
Before her appointment president Zewde was a career diplomat, serving as Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterresto. She also served as Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), as well as Director-General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.
During the earlier years of her career, she served as the Ethiopian Ambassador to France, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and accredited to Tunisia and Morocco (2002-2006). From 1993 to 2002, she served as Ambassador to Djibouti and Permanent Representative to the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), and to Senegal, with accreditation to Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea (1989-1993).
The new president was keen to make a point about gender equality right from the start, telling MPs that if they thought she was talking too much about women, she had only just begun. In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state sets the standard for the future and it normalises women as decision-makers in public life. This is the kind of change that women need to see. Representation matters. It is important for us to witness these types of victories so that we become less afraid and nervous about occupying these spaces. Spaces that have been, for a long time, dominated by men. We need to be unapologetic about entering these spaces so that we can do away with the narrative of “the first woman to…” or “the first black woman to…”. By doing away with this narrative we will ensure that the advancement of women in high impact positions become a societal norm.
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