Sahle-Work Zewde: Ethiopia’s First Female President

A Significant Moment for Women in African Politics



Illustrated by: Ali El Mandalawy

1: SLIGHTLY ABOVE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Once upon a time in Ethiopia, during the reign of the country’s last Emperor Haile Selassie, there was an important army officer in the Imperial Armed Forces. One day on February 21, 1950 in Adis Ababa, the army officer’s wife gave birth to a special little girl, a girl they named “Sahle”.

2: ACADEMIC PURSUITS

Sahle would grow to become a diligent student, who graduated with highest honors from Adis Ababa’s Lycée Guebre-Mariam Secondary School. As a result of her hard work, in 1967 at the age of 17, she was granted a scholarship from the University of Montpellier in France. She would dedicate the next nine years of her life towards her academic pursuits in the prestigious institution where she studied
natural science.

3: MAJOR CHANGES BACK HOME

Before she finished her education, her home country Ethiopia underwent major changes as a Marxist-Leninist faction within the army staged a coup against the imperial government in 1974. The young woman would have been 24 at the time of these events.

4: COMING BACK HOME

Sahle travelled back to Ethiopia where she started working for the Ministry of Education’s Public Relations department, she eventually rose up to become the head the department. She later joined and worked for her country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

5: MAJOR CHANGES WITHIN SAHLE’S LIFE GOALS

These critical moments in both Sahle and Ethiopia’s histories affected the young woman’s life. Gradually, Sahle started losing interest in natural science while gaining interest in politics and policy. She entered into the world of diplomacy and would prove to be a big player in Ethiopia’s diplomatic efforts. Her major diplomatic missions include serving as Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Senegal from 1989 to 1993 and Ambassador to Djibouti from 1993 to 2002. With every diplomatic role she took, the higher she progressed, thereby becoming a remarkable force within Ethiopian politics. 

6: RISING TO THE OCCASION

After all her hard work, one would expect fortune to grant Sahle a great reward. One would also expect a savvy politician like Sahle to take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately, said opportunity arrived in the form of President Mulatu Teshome resigning from office thus creating a vacuum in the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian parliament searched high and low for someone to fill this vacuum, in the end it nominated Sahle for president.  Sahle’s crowning moment came on October 25, 2018 as 487 out of 547 Members of Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives voted in favour of her presidential nomination.

7: SAHLE’S LEGACY

It is evident that Sahle’s hard work and perseverance paid off. Furthermore, having become the first Ethiopia’s first female President and the first female African Head of State in the continent’s modern history, Sahle will undoubtedly be an inspiration for all girls and women in Africa.

8: EPILOGUE?

Sahle has more hard work ahead of her as she is expected to serve a six year term. Nevertheless, the next presidential election, expected in 2024, will determine whether Sahle will have a happily ever after in the Presidential Palace or a shameful exit from politics.
 


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