Blind Female Ethiopian Rights Lawyer Shares 'Alternative Nobel Prize'

Blind Female Ethiopian Rights Lawyer Shares 'Alternative Nobel Prize' Blind Female Ethiopian Rights Lawyer Shares 'Alternative Nobel Prize'

"I started my fight, not by telling people, but showing people that I'm able to contribute. I have one disability but I have 99 abilities"

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, Sept 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At just five years old, Yetnebersh Nigussie's world went dark.

After contracting a fever as a child, no amount of "holy water" or traditional medicine in rural Ethiopia was enough to stop Nigussie from losing her sight - and community acceptance.

As far as her village was concerned, the girl was "cursed" and no longer had value as a daughter to bring in a sizeable marriage dowry. Her father eventually left.

"It was not easy to accept for my family. Blind people are assumed to be unfit, invalid in the community. It is considered to be a result of a curse," said Nigussie, who believes her blindness was preventable and likely due to meningitis.

"So everybody told my mum, 'Oh my god, it would be better if she dies,'" she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.

Instead, Nigussie was sent to a Catholic boarding school for girls with disabilities in the capital Addis Ababa.

There, her life changed.

"I was lucky to be educated. Education was a turning point that changed my blindness into an opportunity," she said,

Now 35 - and a human rights lawyer - Nigussie is among the winners of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as Sweden's alternative Nobel prize.

"I started my fight, not by telling people, but showing people that I'm able to contribute. I have one disability but I have 99 abilities," she said, adding that she was one of just three women studying law at Addis Ababa University in 2002.

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Ethiopia News, Thomson Reuters