Ethiopia: Lawyers With Disabilities Unite to Safeguard Rights

The Law Society is committed to promoting inclusion in the legal profession. Lawyers with Disabilities Division members come from a wide range of backgrounds and include law students, retired solicitors, paralegals, law lecturers, practicing solicitors and their allies.

Lawyers with Disabilities Associations across the world promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities within the legal profession. The division encourages solicitors to use their experiences and expertise to support aspiring solicitors or colleagues seeking to progress in the legal sector.

They help members secure work placements and training contracts and they support people with disabilities to access legal services and facilities. They also provide an opportunity for those working in the legal sector to make their voice heard to the Law Society, local law societies, the profession, government and other policy makers coupled with lobbying for legislation to protect members' right, documents stated.

Members have a wide range of disabilities that affect them to varying degrees, including visual and other sensory impairments, impaired mobility and less immediately apparent disabilities, such as epilepsy, dyslexia and mental health issues. Hence forth the associations help for empowering, advocating and defending persons with disabilities.

Cognizant of these facts, disability movement in Ethiopia is becoming truly inclusive with the formation and activities of different offices working on persons with disabilities. The foundation of Ethiopian Lawyers with Disabilities Association (ELDA) is among the institutions that are established to ensure the full promotion, protection and respect of all rights for all persons with disabilities in Ethiopia.

Laureate Yetnebersh Neguse, Founder and Board Chairperson of the Association told The Ethiopian Herald, this professional association will work intensively to reduce and avoid discrimination against people with disability at every sector in the country. It also works on safeguarding disabled persons from any harm coupled with advocating and empowering them.

As to her the ELDA has a membership of more than 400 lawyers , all of them having some disability, that are helpful as a potential for preventing violence against persons with disability. She further stated that the association will give financial support and free legal services for disable people with economic challenges.The government has prepared, signed and ratified different universal, continental and national conventions and frame works in order to support persons with disabilities. As to her the association will try to solve problems regarding the court service for more than 17 million persons with disability across the country.

Disability laws and acts are instruments through which countries abolish discrimination against persons with disabilities and eliminate barriers towards the full enjoyment of their rights and their inclusion in society.

These laws and acts contribute to progress towards the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (CRPD) in national legislation. Such legislation contributes also towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind.

Melaku tekile, Vice Board Chairperson of ELDA for his part said that the association will work intensively to ensure human rights besides offering free legal services. As to him their association also aims to engage in evidence-based advocacy including class action for promotion and protection of all rights for all persons with disabilities across the nation.

He further noted that assessing the accessibility of the service among the law and justice sectors, holding discussions and creating awareness creation campaigns, working with volunteers that can offer legal consultation for persons with disabilities are their future activities.

Moreover, ELDA has a goal to build the capacity of its members and facilitate the smooth undertaking of their profession by enhancing networking and peer-learning. ELDA is working to bring together lawyers engaged in policy review and analysis, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, legal advisors and students with disabilities studying law in different parts of the country, he noted.

Meaza Ashenafi, president of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia on her part stated that her office is ready to work with the association. She further alerted that including Article 25 and 41 of the FDRE constitution, there are different protocols, charters proclamations that Ethiopia is performing to empower and defend persons with disabilities.

Implementing the constitution, charters and protocols helps to fill the gaps that have been seen through empowering persons with disabilities. Moreover the government is working on offering equal service, empowerment and countering challenges among these groups, she added.

"ELDA paves the way for the participation of various associations of persons with disabilities working in specific intervention areas, promotes the formation of several professional associations of persons with disabilities coupled with its contribution for significantly being the voices of persons with disabilities to be heard at various levels," she added.

Dr. Daniel Bekele, Commissioner of Ethiopian Human Rights Commission assured that ELDA will bring a great chance to reduce and avoid right violation against persons with disabilities. As to him, such segments of the society suffered with direct or indirect ignorance and discrimination due to lack of awareness and limitation of the country's policy and strategy.

Henceforth on its restructuring process the commission has established a new department dedicated to the rights of disabled peoples at a commission level. Besides this he underlines that the government should work on the implementation of each bills that are related to defending persons with disabilities from any kinds of harm adding that the commission will work jointly with the association.

All in all jointly with Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Federal Supreme Court, MoLSA and other government and non-governmental organizations, ELDA will bring change on assuring the rights of persons with disabilities through empowering, advocating and defending them, Yetnebersh noted.

More From: Ethiopian Herald

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