Shegaw Birhanu an alumni of the Scholars Program at the University of Gondar graduated this past year with his graduate’s degree in International Human Rights law. As a Scholar he had beat out countless other candidates to secure his position as a Law student in the University’s School of Law. One of the pledges the Scholars make when they enter the Program is to be transformative leaders and to serve their communities to the best of their abilities. Moreover, the Scholars Program has undoubtedly equipped these talented youth with disabilities and disadvantages with the skills and knowledge they would need to transition from their life of education to their life of leadership.
Shegaw Birhanu who is now a prosecutor in Northern Ethiopia in a town called Dabat is extremely optimistic about his life moving forward and has a sense of confidence that no barrier could stop him. When asked about his current position and the role the Scholars Program had in his success, he shared that the Program had been instrumental. “The Scholars Program has not only assisted me in attaining my current position, but it has done so much more for me,” stressed Shegaw.
He shared that the Program allowed him to attain a sense of commitment and has also showed him how to be a better person via learning the meaning of community engagement and give back. “The scholarship in a sense has transformed me into a well-rounded and more comprehensive individual who can see things with a new scope on life and my position will help me assist others everyday.”
Scholars who graduate and who are off to the real world take part in numerous trainings and programs to get them accustomed to their new life. One of the comprehensive trainings they take centers on transition to work. Some of the key topics that they cover include self-discovery, building self-image, communication, analytical thinking, effective planning, personal financial management, effective job search and the likes.
When asked about his new position and how he attained such a prestigious position in less than 6 months from graduating he simply stated that all people just need to get over the barriers of “infrastructure” and then anyone can achieve what they put their mind too. “When I say infrastructure,” said Shegaw, “I am not referring to physical infrastructure, I am referencing the barriers to infrastructure in ourselves.”
Shegaw shares that people with disabilities are intimidated even before they apply for a position because they feel there are not capable of doing the job or because of the societal pressure that comes with being a person with disability. He stresses, “we have to say ‘we are capable’ and be positive and have a good attitude about ourselves first and foremost.” He shares if one has the aforementioned traits, whether they be a person with disability or not, they can achieve anything.
Shegaw currently works as a prosecutor in the town of Dabat. Through recent events due to the ongoing war the town has seen numerous refugees and internally displaced people. Seeing this as a great opportunity to make a difference, Shegaw has made it a short-term goal of his to make a difference in the lives of the people affected by the conflict. “I see numerous people coming to this town who have been displaced, hurt, plundered and abused by the invaders, and I feel this is a great occasion to use my new found skills and profession to provide free legal service to these individuals,” articulated Shegaw. He is confident he can make this goal a reality and he is adamant about doing his part.
Moving forward numerous Scholars will be thrusted into the job market looking for new opportunities to help shape the country of Ethiopia for the better. Being the future doctors, engineers, scientist and lawyers, the alumni have a huge task ahead of them. However, if the story of Shegaw is any measuring stick for the Scholars it is safe to say that they will be able to leave a lasting mark on their communities that will leave a more prosperous country for future generations.