Women in Ethiopia occupy 50 percent of new cabinet

Women in Ethiopia have disproved the adage that women can’t lead. Ethiopia’s new cabinet is now a record 50 percent female, including the country’s first woman defence minister, after legislators unanimously approved the nominations put forward by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead,” Abiy said while presenting his choices on Tuesday.

“This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa,” he added.

The Horn of Africa nation joins a handful of countries, mostly European, where women make up 50 percent or more of ministerial positions, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women.

The shake-up is the latest in a series of dramatic reforms implemented by Abiy in Ethiopia since he took office in April after more than two years of anti-government unrest that contributed to his predecessor’s sudden resignation.

Ethiopia cabinet is made up of the same number of men and women

The prime minister’s measures have included ending two decades of conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, releasing jailed dissidents, welcoming formerly banned groups back into the country and announcing plans to privatise major state-owned industries.

However, since taking power, his government has been rocked by successive ethnic clashes in the countryside including violence in southern Ethiopia that has displaced nearly one million people.
Today, the prime minister named the former construction minister, Aisha Mohammed, as defence minister – the first woman to hold that position in the country – and announced the creation of a new peace ministry led by Muferiat Kamil, former parliament speaker.

Kamil’s office will oversee the intelligence and security agencies, a move that reinforces the downgrading of the traditionally powerful security establishment in the authoritarian state.

The reshuffle comes amid a wave of ethnic violence.

“The main problem in this country is the lack of peace. This [peace] ministry will be working hard to ensure it prevails,” Abiy told lawmakers.

Since his appointment, Abiy has made peace with neighbouring Eritrea and presided over the partial privatisation of key economic sectors such as telecommunications.

The 42-year-old has also extended an olive branch to several rebel groups and promised to follow a policy of reconciliation and rein in the powerful security agencies. But the changes have not stopped ethnically charged violence, some of which has escalated since he was named premier.


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