Disability & gender champion from Ethiopia awarded 2017 ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ Right Livelihood Award
Yetnebersh Nigussie, a 35 year old lawyer from Ethiopia, receives prestigious award
- She has dedicated her life to advocating for people with disabilities and gender equality
- Blind herself, Yetnebersh says the Award sends signal that women with disabilities are ‘significant contributors to development and aid’.
- The NGO Light for the World has expressed ‘huge pride’ in their colleague’s achievements
Yetnebersh Nigussie, Light for the World’s Senior Inclusion Advisor, has today been awarded the Right Livelihood Award 2017, which is widely referred to as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’.
She was awarded “for her inspiring work promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities allowing them to realise their full potential and changing mind-sets in our societies."
Yetnebersh Nigussie said:
“It is an absolute honour to receive the prestigious Right Livelihood Award and become a Laureate. The recognition provides welcome fuel to the disability and development community’s ongoing call for inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in all spheres of life.
The Award will be a driving force for continuing my and Light for the World’s endeavour to reach our goal of equal opportunities for all and an inclusive society with every child, including those with disabilities, being educated.
It also sends the strong signal that women with disabilities are significant contributors to development and aid".
Yetnebersh Nigussie, the human rights expert dedicated to overcoming inequality for everyone, everywhere
Yetnebersh Nigussie is a 35 year old lawyer from Ethiopia. She is a passionate advocate for the rights enshrined in the UN-Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Yetnebersh was born and raised in rural Ethiopia and lost her eye sight at the age of five. She escaped early marriage by being considered not suitable due to her disability. Her mother insisted that she get an education instead.
Yetnebersh Nigussie said about her life: “Like many people from developing countries, I became blind at the age of five due to preventable causes. Growing up blind and female in rural Ethiopia has not been without challenges; but in the end proved to be an opportunity by giving me the chance to be educated. “
After overcoming social and institutional barriers, she graduated from Addis Ababa University securing her first degree in Law and later finishing her Master’s degree in Social Work. In 2005, Yetnebersh co-founded the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development (ECDD) with the goal to create an inclusive society for people with disabilities. From 2011 to 2015, she was Director of ECDD and worked closely as a project partner with Light for the World. Currently, Yetnebersh leads the Disability Rights and Advocacy department as Senior Inclusive Advisor at Light for the World.
Light for the World’s CEO Rupert Roniger said: “I remember during our project visits in Ethiopia that I was impressed by Yetnebersh’s dedication to fight for children and people with disabilities individually. I’m humbled and proud to be working with such an inspiring woman and she is a truly deserving winner. The Award and Yetnebersh are a driving force for us to continue our initiative for a disability inclusive society and education system. The jury’s decision underlines the urgent need to strengthen the rights of people with disabilities, particularly in low-income countries.”
One of four deserving Laureates
Three other Right Livelihood Award Laureates for 2017 were also announced today, including the human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves (India) and the investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan). This years’ honorary award goes to the American lawyer Robert Bilott.
Notes to editors
Light for the World Press Office
Helen Nassey, PR Officer
M: +43/(0)664 540 68 47
Dawn Rennie, Communications Director
Links to Yetnebersh’s interview videos on YouTube
Part 1 (Personal Path) -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jArajc5hrdU
Part 2 (Discrimination) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa5nTPM1Oqo
Part 3 (Inspiration) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7ADDVuEJlE
Part 4 (Change one thing) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXWNYelCHrE
Part 5 (On winning the RLA) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jfn3ANHoA20
Pictures and video interviews to download
Video interviews: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzSOO5q-Z_5sTFFtMnVOYklWbkk
Yetnebersh Nigussie biography: https://www.light-for-the-world.org/yetnebersh-nigussie
Quotes by Yetnebersh Nigussie
On the award:
“It is an absolute honour to receive the prestigious Rights Livelihood Award and become a Laureate.
The recognition provides welcome fuel to the disability and development community’s ongoing call for inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in all spheres of life.
The Award will be a driving force for continuing my and Light for the World’s endeavour to reach our goal of equal opportunities for all.
It also sends the strong signal that women with disabilities are significant contributors to development and aid.
However, my dream for an inclusive society is shared by billions, and there are others who have paved the way to promote the cause of disability-inclusive development as a pre-condition of a better world for all.
My share in our collective fight for progress is minimal.
The lion’s share goes to people with disabilities, all around our globe, whose day-to-day routine is overcoming challenges in life.
Therefore, it is with deep conviction that I would like to dedicate this Award to the more than one billion people with disabilities globally, who have been deprived of equal opportunities, for the only reason that they have one or more forms of disabilities.
It is my solid hope that this Award will bring light to the work of many grassroots level advocates, including those with disabilities, who strive to end inequality in all its forms for everyone, everywhere!
Credit should also go to parents fighting for equal opportunities for their children with disabilities; advocates whose determination is to create a world for all without barriers; and every single person who helps promote a more equal and inclusive society through their daily words and actions. They are an inspiration. ”
Reflections on blindness / disability / early childhood:
“Like many people from developing countries, I became blind at the age of five due to preventable causes. Growing up blind and female in rural Ethiopia has not been without challenges; but in the end proved to be an opportunity by giving me the chance to be educated."
Hope for the future:
“If I could change one thing in the world, I would change people’s mindsets to think that inclusion – not exclusion-- is the norm.”
Advice to others:
“Focus on the person, not the disability! We have one disability, but 99 abilities to build on!”
About The Right Livelihood Award
The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honour and support courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems". It has become widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' and there are now 166 Laureates from 68 countries. In addition to presenting the annual award in Stockholm, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation supports its Laureates, particularly those who may be in danger due to the nature of their work.
About Light for the World
Light for the World leaves no one behind. Our goal is an inclusive society. As an international disability and development organisation we strive for full participation of persons with disabilities in society. That is why we remain steadfast in our vision: Education for all, health and eye care for all, rehabilitation for all, empowerment for all – simply inclusion.
- At present we work in 20 partner countries and on an international level on health, education, and livelihood.
- Our work has a specific focus on inclusive education, eye health, prevention of blindness, and community based rehabilitation (CBR).
- We engage in the empowerment of persons with disabilities and support them in overcoming barriers in society to bring about social change.
- We work with local and national partners as well as international alliances and organisations.