Note: During Black History Month, we are sharing some of our most-admired black leaders. If you would like to nominate someone, please let us know!
Yetnebersh Nigussie is a disability and women's rights activist and lawyer. She was born in Ethiopia in 1982, and at five years old lost her sight due to a meningitis infection. In contrast with the fate of many young girls in Ethiopia, Yetnebersh managed to escape marrying at a young age and instead was enrolled in a special school by her mother, Shashemane Catholic School for the blind. It was there she began to develop a love of education. She went on to get her law degree as well as a masters in social work from Addis Ababa University. During her time there, she founded the university's Anti-AIDS movement, and established the Addis Ababa University Female Students' Association where she served as its first president.
In 2005, she co-founded the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development (ECDD) and served as the Executive Director from 2011-2015. The focus of the organization is to address issues between disability organizations, specialized service providers, and mainstream development programs. ECDD works to promote inclusion for those with disabilities into Ethiopian society and has become the driving force for inclusion.
Yetnebersh has been an active volunteer in more than 20 Ethiopian organizations. She also received many awards including the Right Livelihood Award in 2017, and in 2015, Africa's Most Influential Women in Business and Politics Award (category of welfare and civil society organizations) in South Africa.
In addition to the many organizations she has founded, she established Yetnebersh Academy for underprivileged children in Addis Ababa which hosts about 200 children with special needs. When asked about her work at the school, she replied, “Schools are the right place to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities. Children who are playing and learning together wouldn’t have any problem to work together, to marry each other or to help each other."