Ethiopian lawyer, Yetnebersh Nigussie has been named a joint winner of the 2017 Right Livelihood Award, also known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize.
Yetnebersh Nigussie a visually impaired Ethiopian lawyer was on Tuesday awarded 3 million Swedish crowns ($374,000) for her inspiring work in promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.
According to her, “With this award comes international recognition, but with recognition comes responsibility. You cannot sleep once you are recognised”. Women with disabilities in Ethiopia face multiple layers of discrimination. My role is to link the two communities, of disabled and able-bodied women, that have faced historical discrimination.”
Nigussie co-founded the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development, a driving force for inclusion, and is now an adviser for Light for the World, an international organisation working to reduce preventable blindness. She lost her sight after contracting meningitis as a baby but said she was lucky to be educated at a special primary school for blind people run by nuns.
Nigussie, who is also a senior advisor at a charity that promotes disability rights said education was her turning point in her life and she pushed to make a difference.
She was one of three women to study law at Addis Ababa University in 2002 and she had to transcribe audio recordings of her legal books into braille throughout of her five-year degree.
“I was lucky to be educated. Education was a turning point that changed my blindness into an opportunity,” she said.
She has won several awards and she says the Right Livelihood Award is her biggest so far. Nigussie is married with two daughters.
She won the joint prize with Colin Gonsalves, an Indian human rights lawyer, and female journalist Khadija Ismayilova for revealing government corruption in Azerbaijan.