The Ethiopian lawyer spoke with DW about the importance of education and supporting the disability community in Africa and around the world. The award honors those who have found practical solutions to global problems.
DW: You lost your eyesight when you were five years old. Some people in your family considered it to be a curse, but today you say the loss of your eyesight was an opportunity. Why?
Yetnebersh Nigussie: Many people in Ethiopia think that someone’s disability is due to a curse because of a fault that their family has committed. I say that my blindness was an opportunity, because not many people in my village had the chance to get an education. Because I was blind, I was not considered suitable for an early marriage, which is a common practice in our village. All of my friends got married when they were ten, eleven or twelve. I was the only exception. Education liberated me, and allowed me to become who I am today.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you are one out of more than a billion people who are living with a disability. For many years you have advocated for the rights of people with disabilities. Which achievement are you most proud of?
Every little milestone is a big achievement, but I can highlight some in my life. The first is my education. The second is my decision to study law, because law was considered to be a men’s subject in Ethiopia. I am among the first three blind women who went to law school.
The next one is the establishment of the Center for Students with Disabilities in the Addis Ababa University, because there was no institution responsible for them beforehand. Now nearly all universities in Ethiopia have a similar organization.
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