Women Make Up Half Of Ethiopia's Cabinet For First Time In History

"Our women ministers will disprove the adage that women can’t lead."

For the first time ever, half of Ethiopia's cabinet members are female. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made the history-making announcement on Tuesday, marking an unprecedented step towards gender parity in one of Africa's largest nations.

According to The Washington Post, the new cabinet has reduced ministerial positions from 28 to 20, half of which are now filled with women. "Our women ministers will disprove the adage that women can't lead," Abiy said during his announcement.

In the reshuffling of his cabinet, Abiy also appointed women to top security governmental positions for the first time in the country's history. As the Guardian reports, former construction minister Aisha Mohammed is now the first woman to ever be Ethiopia's defense minister.  Meanwhile, former parliament speaker Muferiat Kamil will lead Abiy's newly announced peace ministry.  

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In the past, women have typically only held minor positions in Ethiopia's goverment. The new cabinet has them leading not only in defense and security, but also heading ministries of trade, labor, culture, science, and revenue.

The move marks the latest radical change that Abiy has made since his appointment in April. In under a year, the prime minister has instituted sweeping reforms in the country's politics, promising to revitalize the economy and prioritizing peace within the region.

In addition to promoting gender parity within government, Abiy has also worked to create the diversity within those appointed to cabinet. Per the Post, Ethiopia has long been dominated by certain groups despite having over 80 ethnicities in its nation. The new cabinet features members from typically underrepresented areas, such as the Somali and Muslim Afar regions.

Ethiopia isn't the first country in recent years to make strides in amplifying gender diversity among its top government positions. In June, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain appointed 10 female cabinet members, making it the first Socialist government to boost a cabinet that's majority women. That level of representation isn't just unusual for Spain, but throughout the rest of the world.

According to The Washington Post, women make up less than 10 percent of elected parliaments in over 40 countries. In 2017, only 18 percent of all cabinet ministers were women. The U.S. is not an exception to this rule. The nation continues to struggle with female representation in government at all levels. Per CNN, only 22 percent of current senior-level cabinet jobs are held by women, less than that held in both terms of former presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Similar representation problems are evident in global forums as well. In the international government organization known as the Group of 20, only two countries are represented by female leaders: the U.K's Theresa May and Germany's Angela Merkel.  

Cover image via STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images.

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