Ethopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed carried out a sweeping cabinet shuffle on Tuesday, and in a historic move has appointed women to half of the posts in the cabinet. This is significant as Ethiopia is known for its patriarchal values and politics. The reshuffle came as part of the prime minister’s reforms aimed at tackling ethic violence, including the creation of a Ministry of Peace.

The reshuffle featured a downsizing of the cabinet and showed a merging of ministries, reducing the cabinet from 28 members to 20, with a historic half of these top jobs going to women:

Aisha Mohammed (former construction minister) is now the first woman to hold the office of defence minister in Ethiopia. Ahmed Shide (previous deputy minister of finance) was appointed as the finance minister. The peace ministry will be led by former parliamentary speaker Muferiat Kamil. Other industries including agriculture, education, labour, planning and development, science, transport, and women’s affairs among others also showed new appointee names in the reshuffle.

The Washington Post consulted Awol Allo, an expert on Ethi­o­pia at Britain’s Keele University, who said that this move ‘sends a strong message to young Ethio­pian women that one day they can take up positions in the government. The move is part of a general push by the prime minister for more progressive policies,’ Awol Allo added.

Since his appointment in April, Abiy Ahmed has made several reforms in an attempt to restore peace. Over two million people have been displaced in Ethiopia since last year due to violence between rival ethnic groups. Abiy Ahmed is quoted as saying, ‘The main problem in this country is the lack of peace. This [peace] ministry will be working hard to ensure it prevails.’

The Irish Times  notes that Ethiopia’s economy ‘has grown by nearly 10 per cent on average for the past decade … but the recent unrest has led to concerns over its long-term stability’.

While there still seems to be a long road ahead for achieving peace in this country, the progressive cabinet shift is indeed a promising one.