Gender Equality

Ethiopia appoints first female Supreme Court head

Women’s rights activist and lawyer Meaza Ashenafi was sworn last Thursday.

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Ethiopia is serious about reaching gender equality within its government.

The country’s parliament swore in human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi on Thursday as the first female head of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court, CNN reports.

Meaza is the latest woman to be appointed to a top governmental role. She was nominated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who appointed a 50% female cabinet in October. Parliament unanimously supported the  nomination, according to Reuters.

Abiy, a liberal leader who’s been steering the country in a more progressive direction since taking office in April, told lawmakers, “I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind”.

Meaza has endless qualifications for the job — she advised the UN Economic Commission for Africa, founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, and served as a judge on Ethiopia’s High Court.

Actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie even produced the 2014 award-winning film Difret, about an Ethiopian child marriage court case tried by Meaza, according to the Washington Post. Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of early marriage in sub-Saharan Africa, with 2 in every 5 girls marrying before their 18th birthday and nearly 1 in 5 girls marrying before the age of 15. Meaza sparked a national debate over the common practice after freeing a young woman who killed her kidnapper after he attempted forcing her into marriage in 1996.

Meaza’s appointment also follows Ethiopia’s election of its first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, on Oct. 25.

Women in the country, who are some of the world’s most vulnerable targets of violence and oppression, need these examples of female leadership.

UN Women reported, “Women and girls in Ethiopia are strongly disadvantaged compared to boys and men in several areas, including literacy, health, livelihoods, and basic human rights.”

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