Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister has continued his impressive start to what looks a rebirth in the country's history. He has made a bold statement on gender equality by appointing a female Defense Minister and unveiled a 50% women dominated cabinet.
Ethiopia’s new Cabinet is now a record 50 percent female, including a woman defense minister, after lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously approved the nominations put forward by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead,” Abiy said while presenting his choices.
Aisha Mohammed Musa will lead the defense ministry. Another woman, former House speaker Muferiat Kamil, will lead the newly created Ministry of Peace at a time when Africa’s second most populous country faces sometimes violent ethnic tensions amid sweeping political and economic reforms.
This 20-member Cabinet, trimmed from 28 posts, is the second named since Abiy took office in April. The first was criticized for the low number of female ministers.
Since he was sworn in in April, Ahmed has been taking all the right steps, from giving up Badme, to end a 20-year conflict with neighbour Eritrea, to leading the reunification of the Horn of Africa. He has also been making major moves to improve Ethiopia’s economy, ordering partial privatisation of state-owned enterprises, among other things. He has sacked controversial civil servants, improved media freedom, freed thousands of political prisoners and has now made a statement about his government’s commitment to gender parity by ensuring 10 out of the 20 ministers he just presented to the parliament are women.
“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead,” he said while presenting the ministers.
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The Prime Minister has also reduced cabinet posts to 20 from 28 by merging some ministries. He set up a new “Ministry of Peace” as the country works towards addressing a spate of ethnic clashes.
According to Addis Standard, one of the women to be announced as minister by Ahmed will be in charge of the ministry of defence, a position that has never been held by a woman in the country’s history. The women nominated include: Muferiat Kamil, former speaker of the House of People’s Representatives as Minister of Peace; Fetlework Egziabher, Minister of Trade & Industry; Aisha Ahmed, Minister of Defence; Adanech Abbeebbee, Minister of Revenue; Dagmawit Moges, Minister of Transport; and Yalem Tsegaye Asfaw as Minister of Women, Youth and Children. Yalem was the minister of Women and Children Affairs, but the ministry has now been renamed to include “Youth”.
Other women are Dr. Ergoge Tesfaye nominated as Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs;Dr. Fitsum Assefa as Minister of Planning & Devolopment; Dr. Hirut Mariam as Ministry of Science and Higher Education and Dr. Hirut Kassaw, who was assistant professor at Bahir Dar University as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sports.
The ten women have been sworn in alongside ten men, including Ahmed Shide who was appointed as Finance Minister.
In his acceptance speech after he was sworn in as Prime Minister, Ahmed had acknowledged the roles played by the women of Ethiopia in building the country, stressing that the country’s national identity was meaningless without the participation of Ethiopian women.
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“By denying due recognition to women who built our country, served our country, and helped it to stand on its feet, it is impossible to establish national renaissance,” he said.
“Our government’s stand on the rights of women and their equality is not out of favor to them but rather for our common good. The government duly realizes that a nation that neglects and marginalizes half of its population absolutely cannot have a full and complete body and cannot move forward,” he said, promising that the government would endeavour to speed up efforts to improve women’s all-rounded participation and their benefit. Again, Abiy Ahmed has done what he said he’d do.