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Ethiopian President: ‘There is Nothing that a Woman or a Girl Cannot Do’

voanews: By Solomon Abate

This interview originated in VOA's Horn of Africa service. VOA Africa Division's Thierry Kaore, Andrea Tadic and Salem Solomon contributed to the story.

Editor’s note: Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde gave an interview to Solomon Abate of the Voice of America’s Horn of Africa service, in New York. She spoke in Amharic and English. These highlights are from their conversation in English and have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Sahle-Work Zewde was elected president of Ethiopia by the country’s members of parliament in October 2018.  She became the first woman to hold this position in the country’s history. Sahle-Work previously served at the U.N. Special Representative to the African Union and Ethiopian Ambassador to France, Senegal and Djibouti.  She also headed the U.N. office in Nairobi.

Solomon Abate: Your Excellency Madame President, thank you very much for your time. I would like to start this interview with yourself. Please tell me a little about yourself, about your family...

Sahle-Work Zewde: I don't know where to start. I grew up in a family of four girls. I'm the firstborn. But I had a very amazing family especially my father, who has always told us that there is nothing that a woman or a girl cannot do. So this has been my motto all my life and in whatever I did, by the way, I was the first woman to do this, the first woman to do that, so I was daring. I was courageous and I had my self-esteem as well.

All this has helped. So I started in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then, no, Ministry of Education, rather, [and] then foreign affairs. I was [an] ambassador of Ethiopia for close to two decades. Too many countries and multilateral as well to the African Union. Then I joined the U.N. as an assistant secretary-general and a special representative of the SG (secretary-general) to the Central African Republic, where my main task was to stabilize the country and work on the peace building for close to eight years. The only United Nations headquarters in the global south which is based in Nairobi as its first dedicated director-general, female or male, that was the first one and the first female of course. Yeah, so with that I'm co-founder Secretary-General. The last posting in the U.N. was to the African Union as a special representative of the SG again to the EU before I joined this office. That's it in a nutshell. Read More...

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