School of Transnational Governance

Meaza Ashenafi Gives Interview at the European University Institute

The Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia was invited in the framework of the Leaders Beyond the State series.

On 6 May 2019 the School of Transnational Governance welcomed Meaza Ashenafi, the first woman appointed Chief Justice of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and prominent women’s rights activist.
Ashenafi was invited in the framework of the Leaders Beyond the State series, in which the STG invites prominent figures from around the world to share their experience as transnational leaders.

During her interview with EUI researchers, Ashenafi addressed the most pressing issues that Ethiopia is currently facing, highlighting the achievements without concealing the challenges. Talking about Ethiopia’s constitution and the ongoing debate around individual and group rights, she stated that ‘there is no clear-cut division, but rather a dynamic relationship between the protection of individual rights and group rights such as ethnic minorities' rights’.

Sharing her long-term experience in activism, she praised Ethiopia's progresses in women’s right protection: ‘We have been able to lobby the government to amend discriminatory laws, while also focusing on empowering and training women,’ she said.

‘When it comes to girls and women’s empowerment, I believe education is key’ she claimed, recalling how ‘I was one of those girls: the only girl in a classroom of boys. I did not have access to quality education, but I made the best out of all the education I could get’.

Praising the fact that many cultural practices, such as child marriage or female mutilation, are now illegal in many African states, she acknowledged that the enforcement of such rules remains challenging.

Answering a researcher’s query about the freedom of the press, she proudly stated that ‘in the past year, we have made great progress: today, not a single journalist is in jail in Ethiopia. We got them all out of prison’.

Ashenafi was interviewed by Giovanni Costenaro (Department of History and Civilization), Tina Magazzini (Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies), Eniola Anuoluwapo Soyemi (Max Weber Fellow, Department of Political and Social Sciences) and Julie Wetterslev (Department of Law). The event was moderated by Luther-King Okunade Fasehun, Policy Leader Fellow at the STG.

Watch the video of the event