Yohannes Takele Zewale LL.M.’19, S.J.D.’24 Successfully Defends Dissertation for Doctor of Juridical Science Degree

Yohannes Takele Zewale, LL.M.’19, S.J.D.’24, successfully defended his dissertation for the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree. Zewale passed the oral defense of his dissertation with no revisions, becoming the first student to receive his S.J.D. from the College of Law.

In his dissertation, titled “Representation and Persons with Disabilities in Legislatures: A Proposed Model of Approval Representation,” Zewale discusses the lack of descriptive representation of disabled people in legislatures, as well as the limited research on the topic. To address this shortcoming, Zewale proposes a new model of “Approval Representation”, which seeks to increase descriptive representation based solely on voter preferences. His model is an alternative to the model of Descriptive Representation, which has been used in many countries to promote the representation of women and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Only five countries’ laws include quotas requiring the descriptive representation of disabled people in their legislatures, and all these countries are in the African region.

“Not only is Yohannes’ dissertation significant for its comprehensiveness (at 270 pages), its originality (there is only one other article on the topic), and its use of qualitative research methods to support its claims (following receipt of Institutional Review Board approval, he conducted interviews with 12 disabled people who serve in legislatures), but this dissertation is also significant because it shines a light on countries that are too often ignored by a research field largely dominated by Western scholars. The fact that the first five countries that have instituted policies to ensure representation of disabled people in their legislatures are all within the African region is a topic worthy of research in itself,” says Professor Arlene Kanter, Faculty Director of International Programs and dissertation advisor to Zewale.

Zewale has published one of the chapters from his dissertation in the Harvard Online International Law Journal and a separate chapter in the African Disability Rights Yearbook.

Zewale earned his LL.B. and his first LL.M. from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, in 2015 and 2018, respectively. He received his LL.M., as an Open Society Fellow, with a concentration on international and comparative disability law, from the College of Law in 2019. He has held positions at the Addis Ababa University School of Law, the Ethiopian Center for Disabilities and Development (ECDD), and different organizations. He is currently working for various non-governmental organizations at both national and international levels.