Meaza Ashenafi Named Head of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court

Meaza Ashenafi attends a screening of the movie “Difret” on Dec. 9, 2014, in Hollywood. The women’s rights activist was appointed Thursday as Ethiopia’s new Supreme Court president. (Getty Images)

The Washington Post

By Paul Schemm

Women’s rights activist named to head Ethiopia’s Supreme Court in new reform

ADDIS ABABA, Ethi­o­pia — In Ethiopia’s latest move to empower women, the country’s parliament on Thursday installed as Supreme Court president a women’s rights activist whose achievements were championed in a movie promoted by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.

Meaza Ashenafi was a judge on Ethiopia’s High Court from 1989 to 1992 and then an adviser to a commission writing up its new constitution. She also founded the Ethio­pian Women Lawyers Association and helped start the first women’s bank in the country, Enat Bank.

Her most famous case, however, was turned into the 2014 Ethio­pian film “Difret,” which was promoted by Jolie as executive producer and went on to win the World Cinematic Dramatic Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

The film is based on a court case, tried by Meaza, that resulted in outlawing the tradition of kidnapping child brides in Ethio­pia.

In 1996, Aberash Bekele, 14, was kidnapped on her way home from school by a man who intended to marry her. She escaped with a rifle and shot her kidnapper. She was then charged with murder.

Meaza succeeded in getting the charges dropped and set off a public debate over Ethiopia’s age-old tradition of kidnapping girls as brides.

Meaza was selected to head the court by Ethiopia’s new reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who has taken a series of measures to increase the role of women in what is widely described as a patriarchal society.

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Related:
Tadias Interview with Meaza Ashenafi & Aberash Bekele about ‘Difret’ Movie: 2015 in NYC

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