Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday swore in the country’s first female supreme court president, building on efforts by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to achieve gender parity in government.
The appointment of Meaza Ashenafi comes two weeks after Abiy named ten female ministers to make Ethiopia the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women.
A prominent human rights lawyer, Meaza recently served as an adviser on women’s rights at the Addis Ababa-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
Naming her as his pick to head the Supreme Court, PM Abiy told lawmakers the court system needed improved capacities “to successfully implement demands made with regards to justice, democracy, and change in our country.
Meaza served as a Judge of the High Court of Ethiopia between 1989 and 1992. In 1993 she was appointed by the Ethiopian Constitution Commission as a legal adviser. She founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) and became its executive director.
She helped lead the development of the first women’s bank in Ethiopia, Enat Bank, which was established in 2011 and as of 2016 chairs its board of directors.
“I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind.”
Parliament unanimously approved Abiy’s choice.
Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the court system operates independently of government.