Born and raised in Ethiopia, Yetnebersh became blind at the age of five after a meningitis infection. After completing her schooling at the Shashemane Catholic School for the blind, Yetnebersh attended Addis Ababa University. During her studies, she took leadership positions, co-founded the university anti-AIDS movement and founded the Addis Ababa University Female Students’ Association. Yetnebersh earned a Law degree and a Master’s degree in social work. She will soon complete a second Master’s degree in Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University. In 2006, she co-founded the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development (ECDD), which promotes and facilitates disability inclusion in Ethiopian legal and policy framework and in society at large. Under her leadership, ECDD became one of the main driving forces for inclusion and for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Ethiopia. She has also opened the Yetnebersh Academy for underprivileged children in Addis Ababa. Among other important awards recognizing her work, Yetnebersh was awarded Right Livelihood Award in 2017.
“I turned blind and that became my window to escape early marriage. Lucky me, no early husband, I was taken to the capital, tested and they told me “you can never be sighted, but,” the doctor said, “she can be educated.” That turned my life into a miracle and brought me all the way here, form Addis.”