Meaza Ashenafi

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Meaza Ashenafi (መዓዛ አሸናፊ)
Meaza Ashenafi's Profile Picture.jpg
President of the Federal Supreme Court
Assumed office
1 November 2018
DeputySolomon Areda Waktolla
Preceded byDagne Melaku
Judge Federal High Court of Ethiopia
In office
Legal Adviser Committee on 1995 Ethiopian Constitution
Founding Executive Director Ethiopian Women Lawyer's Association (EWLA)
In office
Founder and Chair Enat Bank
In office
Adviser on Gender and Women's Rights United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
In office
Personal details
Asosa, Benishangul-Gumuz, Ethiopia
EducationAddis Ababa University (LLB)
University of Connecticut (MA)

Meaza Ashenafi (born 1964) is an Ethiopian lawyer. Described as a "prominent women's rights activist",[1] she is the founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA). In November 2018, she was appointed by the Federal Parliamentary Assembly as President of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia.[2]


Meaza served as a Judge of the High Court of Ethiopia between 1989 and 1992.[2] In 1993 she was appointed by the Ethiopian Constitution Commission as a legal adviser.[3] In 1995,[3] Meaza founded the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), and became its executive director.[4] Through her legal contacts, she has been instrumental in campaigning for women's rights in Ethiopia; her Fighting For Women's Rights In Ethiopia group had approximately 45 graduate lawyers working for it in 2002.[5]

Meaza has held a position with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She helped lead the development of the first women's bank in Ethiopia, Enat Bank, which was established in 2011 and as of 2016 chairs its board of directors.[6]

Political positions[edit]

In a 2009 speech Meaza was outspoken on the stereotypes that women face in Ethiopian society, blaming Amharic proverbs for the way women are perceived, portraying them mostly as delicate and weak.[1] The communications tradition over time has used these proverbs to advance men and degrade women.[1] Some of the ideas given by these proverbs are that a woman's place is only in domestic duties and that women in general lack common sense and are irresponsible.[1]

One of these Amharic proverbs that Meaza is alluding to says that a woman can not to be trusted and another conveys the idea that the companionship of a woman is dispersed by a mouse. Another proverb indicates that even if a woman is smart, only a man can be practical to apply knowledge – hinting at gender based roles in urban Ethiopian society, especially in Addis Ababa. Still another of the proverbs she alludes to is of emotional characteristics where the proverb speaks of the courage of a woman as about as useless as a shy priest or a blind donkey.[7]


Meaza has received numerous awards for philanthropy and leadership, including the African Leadership Prize; and is an active member of several women's rights advocacy organizations. In 2003, she became a Hunger Project Award laureate,[4] winning the Grassroots Ethiopian Women of Substance Africa Prize,[8] Two years later, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.[9] Her most famous case was turned into the 2014 Ethiopian film Difret, which was promoted by Angelina Jolie as executive producer and went on to win the World Cinematic Dramatic Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Woldeyes 2014, p. 48.
  2. ^ a b c Paul Schemm (November 1, 2018), Women’s rights activist named to head Ethiopia’s Supreme Court Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b Vieceli, Alberto (2005). 1000 Peacewomen Across the Globe. Scalo. p. 494. ISBN 978-3-03939-039-7.
  4. ^ a b "ETHIOPIA: Interview with Meaza Ashenafi, head of women lawyers association". IRIN. 7 November 2003. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  5. ^ Baregu, Mwesiga Laurent (2002). Peace-building in the Great Lakes Region. SAPES Books. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-77905-120-2.
  6. ^ "Exclusive Q&A With Human Rights Lawyer Meaza Ashenafi". Makers. 2016. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  7. ^ Woldeyes 2014, p. 49.
  8. ^ Tadias: Ethiopian-American Lifestyle and Business Magazine. Tadias, Incorporated. 2003. p. 5.
  9. ^ Mohammed, Nassir (15 August 2013). "Meaza Ashenafi Mengistu". Ethioscoop Review Magazine. Retrieved 3 February 2016.