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Who is Sahle-Work Zewde? Meet Ethiopia’s First Woman President

Ethiopian senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde has been approved as the country’s first female president today, on October 25, 2018. Her promotion follows the recent and unexpected resignation of Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome. These changes came after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed conducted a cabinet reshuffle giving half of the country’s ministerial seats to women.

Sahle-Work Zewde, who born 21 February 1950, was elected to this remarkable position by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly. Her appointment marks yet another shift in Ethiopia’s political system after the election of Aby Ahmed as prime minister in April.

Prior to her appointment, Sahle-Work served as Special Representative of United Nations. António Guterres announced her as his Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union at the level of Under-Secretary-General on June 27 this year.

A natural sciences graduate of the University of Montpellier, France, Sahle-Work has held various important offices throughout her career life. While in these offices, she introduced increasingly accountable practice at the national, regional and international levels.

Some of the positions she has held are:

The Ethiopian Ambassador to France

Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi

Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA)

Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

Director-General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia

Ambassador to Senegal, with accreditation to Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea

Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

Ambassador to Djibouti and Permanent Representative to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Pledging her honor, the 68-year-old promised to promote peace and make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia. She used the occasion to highlight the plight of mothers and women in Ethiopia, urging the lawmakers to work towards building a society that rejects oppression of women.

“I urge you all, to uphold our peace, in the name of a mother, who is the first to suffer from the absence of peace,” said Sahle during her pledge.

Here are some facts about her:

  • She is the 4th president of Ethiopia since the powerful EPRDF coalition came in to power.
  • She is a career diplomat – has served in Senegal, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Guinea and France
  • She is the immediate UN rep to AU before becoming president
  • She is fluent in Amharic, French and English
  • Her diplomatic carrier started as early as 1989
  • She is the second woman to hold Ambassadorial position in the history of Ethiopia
  • She is the first born of four girls in her family
  • Her father was a senior officer in the imperial army who believed in education
  • She was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • She was appointed to replace Mulatu Teshome Wirtu who submitted his resignation with one year left of his term
  • She got a scholarship at the age of seventeen to study in France
  • She is married and is a mother of two sons.