Ethiopia made history on Thursday when its parliament named the nation’s first-ever woman president and currently Africa’s only serving female head of state: Sahle-Work Zewde, a veteran diplomat and former United Nations official. In an address after taking her oath of office, President Sahle-Work, 68, pledged to work toward a “society that rejects the oppression of women” and to strive for peace and unity. And to those who may have thought that she talks too much about women, the new head of state of Africa’s second most populous nation said she’s only just getting started.
In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalises women as decision-makers in public life. #Ethiopia (2) pic.twitter.com/3Z8UNd15E0
— Fitsum Arega (@fitsumaregaa) October 25, 2018
It’s being noted in the wake of Sahle-Work’s election by Ethiopia’s parliament that “president” is a largely ceremonial post in Ethiopia, with more executive power held by the prime minister (Abiy Ahmed). Since taking office in April, 42-year-old Abiy has made progressive changes in the country including releasing political prisoners, welcoming back exiled dissidents, and brokering peace with long-standing adversary Eritrea, The Washington Post noted. He’s also called for the promotion of more women, resulting in a pink wave of sorts: After a recent cabinet reshuffling, half of the posts are now held by women.
Sahle-Work’s appointment was cheered by the PM’s chief of staff (and de facto spokesperson), Fitsum Arega, on Twitter. He wrote, “In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life.” Here’s hoping someday the U.S. will catch up.
This article first appeared on Vogue.com