Green party politician Awet Tesfaiesus has become the first African-born Black female MP in Germany’s parliament, also known as the Bundestag. Tesfaiesus, who fled from Eritrea with her family when she was four years old, was elected to represent the Werra-Meissner constituency in central Germany following Sunday’s elections.
Growing up in Heidelberg, Tesfaiesus has been a member of the Greens since 2009, according to BBC. Married with a son, she entered politics after the 2020 murder in Hanau of nine people of foreign heritage. A neo-Nazi sympathizer was reportedly behind the killings that sparked outrage in the country. Tesfaiesus at that moment knew that she had a responsibility to her son and to the many marginalized people in Germany whose voices are barely heard. Thus, she decided to ran for the Bundestag, she said in an interview.
From 2012 to 2015, Tesfaiesus was a member of the executive committee of the Greens in Kassel. The 47-year-old graduated from Frankfurt University in 2006. She has been practicing law, usually representing asylum seekers and refugees. In the Bundestag, she wants to campaign for diversity and equal opportunities while fighting racism and discrimination.
Tesfaiesus is among hundreds of people who ran for Germany’s 735-seat lower house of parliament with backgrounds as immigrants or parents or grandparents who immigrated to the country, AP reported. The chamber now has at least three people of African descent including Tesfaiesus and Social Democratic lawmaker Armand Zorn, 33, who was born in Cameroon and came to Germany at age 12.
There are about 21.3 million people with immigrant backgrounds in Germany, or about 26% of the country’s population of 83 million, as stated by AP. Over 500 candidates with immigrant roots ran for parliament this year. Although it is not known the number of people who have won, observers say the Bundestag will be more diverse than ever before. The outgoing parliament had 8.2% or 58 of 709 lawmakers with immigrant roots, according to Mediendienst Integration, an organization that tracks migrant issues in Germany. It said the 2013 to 2017 parliament had only 5.9% or 37 out of 631 lawmakers.
What’s more, the Bundestag will have more female lawmakers. AP cites German news agency dpa as saying that more than a third, or 34.7%, of the new lawmakers are women compared to 31.4% in the outgoing parliament. Two transgender women were also elected, and they are both from the Green party — Tessa Ganserer, 44, from Nuremberg in Bavaria, and 27-year-old Nyke Slawik, who represents the western city of Leverkusen.