First woman to head Supreme Court

5 Nov 2018

Following the historic appointment of Ethiopia’s first female president as well as a gender-balanced Cabinet, the trend is continuing. On 1st November, the Parliament appointed Meaza Ashenafi as the country’s first female Supreme Court President.

“Ethiopia’s march towards gender parity in key leadership positions continues unabated,” PM Abiy’s then chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, wrote on Twitter. “Meaza Ashenafi is one of Ethiopia’s most seasoned lawyers and a prominent women rights activist.”

A former high court judge, Meaza was also an advisor on the writing of the Ethiopian constitution and founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA). As EWLA’s Executive Director, Meaza successfully defended a 14-year-old girl accused of killing a man who raped her in a story that was dramatised in the 2014 movie produced by Hollywood actress, Angelina Jolie, titled “Difret”. She also helped start Enat Bank, the first women’s bank in the country.

In an interview with the BBC, Meaza said “This is an honour and a distinct privilege. This kind of offer does not come every day and this is a new chapter in our country as we go through a transformation…It will be a privilege if I am able to contribute to the independence of our judiciary… [and] the government is ready to ensure that I get all the support I need to build an independent judiciary.

On becoming the first woman to hold the job, as well as the other recent promotions of women, Meaza said:

“I am so happy that the glass ceiling is shattered, and my daughters can dream of becoming anyone they want to be in Ethiopia.”

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