Amazing story – Meet 23yr old Jessikah Inaba, UK’s first black and blind barrister

Jessikah Inaba was born with a rare eye condition called bilateral microphthalmia, which means her eyes are smaller than usual. She grew up in Lewisham, southeast London, with her parents and siblings. She attended local schools that had units to support pupils with visual impairments. She then moved to Camden, where she lives now.

She always had a passion for law and justice, and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a barrister. She enrolled at the University of Law in London Bloomsbury, where she studied law, a master’s degree, and a professional training course. She completed all her studies in Braille, using a special screen that displays one line at a time, or specially printed books.

She faced many challenges and obstacles along the way, such as delays in getting her study materials in Braille, missing information from pictures and tables in the books, and having to prove herself as a lawyer and justify her need for special equipment. She also had to deal with the stereotypes and prejudices that come with being a black woman with a disability.

She said: “There’s a triple-glazed glass ceiling. I’m not the most common gender or colour, and I have a disability, but by pushing through I’m easing the burden on the next person like me.”

She credits her success to her friends and family, who supported her throughout her journey. She also thanks her mentors and role models, such as Baroness Hale, the former president of the Supreme Court, who is also visually impaired.

She said: “I know I can do this job well, and the more people like me who go through training the easier it will become. I know I’m giving hope to others in similar situations.”

Jessikah Inaba has achieved many milestones in her academic and professional career. She graduated with a first-class honours degree in law from Surrey University in 2019. She then completed her master’s degree with distinction in 2020. She also passed her Bar Professional Training Course with very competent grades in 2021.

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She has won several awards and scholarships for her academic excellence and advocacy skills, such as the Lord Denning Scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court that train barristers in England and Wales. She also won the Access to Justice Foundation Award for her pro bono work.

She has gained valuable experience in various legal fields, such as criminal law, family law, human rights law, and public law. She has worked as a legal assistant at a law firm, a legal researcher at a charity, and a mini-pupil at several chambers. She has also volunteered for various organisations that provide legal advice and representation to disadvantaged people.

She has also participated in several moots and mock trials, where she demonstrated her skills as an advocate. She has represented her university at national and international competitions, such as the Oxford University Press Moot Competition and the International Criminal Court Moot Competition.

She has also been featured in several media outlets, such as The Times, The Evening Standard, The First Post, and The Republic World. She has received praise and recognition from many prominent figures in the legal profession and beyond, such as Lady Hale, Lord Neuberger, Lord Burnett of Maldon, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, David Lammy MP, Diane Abbott MP, Cherie Blair QC, Helena Kennedy QC, Afua Hirsch QC,
and many others.

Jessikah Inaba is now preparing to apply for pupillage in January 2022 – a system where newly qualified barristers get placed in chambers for the first time. She hopes to find a pupillage that suits her interests and aspirations. She is interested in working on cases that involve human rights, social justice,
and equality.

She said: “I want to use my voice to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I want to make a difference in society and challenge injustice wherever I see it.”

She also wants to continue raising awareness and breaking barriers for people with disabilities in the legal profession and beyond. She wants to show that disability is not an obstacle but an opportunity to overcome challenges and achieve goals.

She said: “I want to be an example for other people like me who have dreams and ambitions. I want to show them that anything is possible if you work hard and believe in yourself.”

She also wants to encourage more diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, especially for black women, who are underrepresented and face discrimination. She wants to see more black women in leadership positions and in the judiciary.

She said: “I want to see more people who look like me in the legal profession. I want to see more black women as barristers, judges, solicitors, academics, and policymakers. I want to see more black women making an impact and changing the law for the better.”

According to the latest statistics from the Bar Standards Board, the regulator of barristers in England and Wales, there are 17,436 practising barristers in the UK as of October 2021. Of these, only 38% are women, 14% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, and 1% have a disability.

The statistics also show that there are 2,551 pupil barristers in the UK as of October 2021. Of these, only 54% are women, 19% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, and 3% have a disability.

The statistics also show that there are 3,488 judges in the UK as of April 2021. Of these, only 32% are women, 8% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, and 2% have a disability.

The statistics also show that there are 1,606 Queen’s Counsel (QCs) in the UK as of October 2021. Of these, only 17% are women, 9% are from ethnic minority backgrounds, and less than 1% have a disability.

These statistics show that there is still a long way to go to achieve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Another lady redefining possible and changing the narrative is Haben Girma, Harvard Law’s first deaf-blind graduate.

Haben Girma is not only a human rights lawyer, a disability justice advocate, and a bestselling author, but also the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. Her remarkable story of overcoming barriers and achieving her dreams is an inspiration to millions of people around the world.

Born in Oakland, California in 1988 to an Eritrean immigrant family, Haben lost her vision and hearing as a result of an unknown progressive condition in early childhood. Haben attended mainstream public schools and graduated from Skyline High School in 2006. Haben’s passion for education and social justice led her to travel to Mali at the age of 15 to volunteer with buildOn, a nonprofit organization that builds schools in developing countries. She then attended Lewis & Clark College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2010. She successfully advocated for her legal rights to accommodations in the school cafeteria, setting a precedent for other students with disabilities. To read more about Haben incredible story, click here.

Jessikah and Haben’s story inspires and challenges everyone to work towards a more equal and fair society. They are such a gifted, hard working and truly amazing young ladies. Keep pushing higher and higher and redefining what is possible. You are truly a Rising African and an able role model for the new African. Rising Africa is a dynamic platform that highlights the remarkable achievements of Africans worldwide and provides up-to-date information on scholarships and sponsorships available to African youth. Our vision is to inspire and empower the next generation of African leaders by showcasing the diverse accomplishments and talents of Africans across different fields, including technology, business, arts and culture, and social activism.

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