The move is the latest sweeping change made under "reformist" Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's leadership.
In an unprecedented move towards gender inclusion within the Ethiopian government, the country's lawmakers have announced a new cabinet made up of 50 percent women.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who has been described as a reformist, due to landmark changes that have occurred under his leadership—made the announcement on Tuesday. "Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can't lead," he said in Parliament. "This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa."
In the new cabinet, which has been reduced from 28 to 20 ministers total, two women will serve in top security positions for the first time ever, reports the Washington Post. Aisha Mohammed has been named Minister of Defense, while Muferiat Kamil, a former parliamentary speaker, will lead the new Ministry of Peace, which will manage the nation's intelligence and information services, and will work to tackle the ethnic conflict in the country's rural areas.
HE PM Abiy Ahmed has formed a new cabinet. He downsized the number of ministerial positions to 20. Women compose 50… https://t.co/wLuABCcZBR— Fitsum Arega (@Fitsum Arega) 1539680862.0
According to the Associated Press, a number of African nations have had women as defense ministers in the past, including South Africa, Central African Republic, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau.
Rwanda has received international recognition for its efforts to include women in important governmental positions in recent years. Women make up 43 percent of the country's Cabinet and 61 percent of its parliament members.
The Washington Postreports that the new cabinet also represents the country's ethnic and religious diversity. To quote the publication directly, "Aisha, the new defense minister, comes from the arid and predominantly Muslim Afar region, while new Finance Minister Ahmed Shide is from the Somali region."
Ahmed spoke about the importance of increased social inclusion in the country in an interview with the Daily Maverick."Inclusiveness and coexistence is critical in Ethiopia," said the Prime Minister. "Because of differences in terms of tribalism, and religion, and the virtually feudal system of land ownership which prevailed in the past."
Ethiopia's PM Abiy Names New Cabinet With Record Number of Women - 50% To Be Exact https://t.co/AakWwj5rlB— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@Charles Onyango-Obbo) 1539684366.0
While many consider this a groundbreaking step towards gender equality, some are more cautious about showering the government with praise, questioning whether the move is indeed a genuine move towards gender equality or simply performative.
Here's some of what folks are saying online about the news:
Let me fill you in. #Ethiopia's reformist, visionary & integrity governed PM, Dr. Abiy Ahmed announed his cabinet… https://t.co/1CKiyff1LE— NuNu Wako™© (@NuNu Wako™©) 1539700521.0
Women have been trained to succeed, but not too much. Women have been given a chance to lead, but invisibly. If wom… https://t.co/kn9pO5vdcg— Siyane Aniley 🌻🌻🌻 (@Siyane Aniley 🌻🌻🌻) 1539701129.0
We see you, men, who claim to support gender equality. Your frenetic “if” and “but” says more about your backwardne… https://t.co/atfZl739bZ— Melon (@Melon) 1539705939.0
A Government that oversaw legal shipping of 100s of 1000s Ethio Women for servitude to Arabia under horrific circum… https://t.co/0vY55ki9eC— Liya'ና B. Tefferi (@Liya'ና B. Tefferi) 1539694492.0
Thrilled Ethiopia has managed to reach gender parity in the cabinet reshuffle!! A promising chapter for women’s pol… https://t.co/VkV3obRQoU— 🌞🌻Billene ቢልለኔ Aster Seyoum (@🌞🌻Billene ቢልለኔ Aster Seyoum) 1539680287.0