Meaza Ashenafi, is a seasoned lawyer, familiar face to Ethiopians, who watched national TV shows on legal issues pertaining to women’s rights and other national matters of importance. She is a lawyer by training, a former judge, founder of the first Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), founder of the first only-female founded bank, Enat Bank and volunteer in various institutions.
She has built her reputation for being a non-partisan legal expert with a tendency to be activist/advocate for women’s and human rights in general, and fearless stand for justice.
The film “Difret” which narrates about the story of a girl abducted for marriage in Ethiopia, a common practice until today, is based on the true story of a young girl in south Ethiopia and how Meaza Asenafi, as her attorney legally fought and got the girl acquitted. The film was banned few years ago under the pre-Abiy administration of the EPRDF.
Today, Ethiopia’s reformist PM Abiy Ahmed selected her and got her appointed by the parliament as the first Supreme Court president of Ethiopia.
How’s this for qualifications? Meaza Ashenafi, the first woman president of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court, won a landmark case that protected girls from forced marriage, helped write the country’s constitution, & founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association https://t.co/PiN0uhvNBn
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) November 1, 2018
Congratulations #MeazaAshenafi Pres. Federal Supreme Court of #Ethiopia !! Well deserved. You were a formidable contribution to the #UN @ECA_OFFICIAL no doubt you will discharge your new duties with the same strength of purpose. #WomenLead #theafricawewant https://t.co/KfKUtT0dUz
— Dr. Vera Songwe (@SongweVera) November 1, 2018
The response on social media has been an overwhelming Yey. The international media has also been widely reporting it.
Her appointment gives a promise that most Ethiopian opposition, activist and critiques have been asking for, an independent judiciary system. There is no doubt that Meaza would be as independent as she has been but her appointment becomes institutional only if she is able to reform the legislations, court directives and importantly replaces judges and prosecutors appointed for mere party loyalty. However, the promise becomes stronger if Abiy could also appoint independent, trusted Ethiopians to lead the military and intelligence sectors too.
Her appointment is also promising since she is likely going to be the final judge if parties enter, possibly will, into disagreement about the outcomes of the upcoming national election next year.
Her appointment is also promising to bring up our daughters in Ethiopia. It may uplift the confidence of girls in the justice system and sentences for violence against women could be stricter and our daughters would see Meaza as a great role model.
It is now, perhaps, the time to think about going back to Ethiopia for exiled Ethiopians since her appointment gives a grain of confidence.