26 Sep 2017
Yetnebersh with colleagues from Light for the World at the United Nation’s High Level Political Forum in New York in July 2016. Credit: Joel Sheakoski

This morning, Yetnebersh Nigussie, Senior Inclusion Advisor for IDDC Member Light for the World, has been awarded the Right Livelihood Award 2017.

Yetnebersh, a 35 year old lawyer from Ethiopia, passionate advocate for the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and a person with a disability herself, received the award “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."

Not only recipients of aid or charity – contributors too

It is an absolute honour to receive the prestigious Right Livelihood Award and become a Laureate,” said Yetnebersh Nigussie. “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 not only recipients of aid or charity – we are contributors too. If I could change one thing in the world,” she added, “I would change people’s mindsets to think that inclusion—not exclusion—is the norm.

A human rights expert dedicated to overcoming inequality for everyone, everywhere

Born and raised in rural Ethiopia and lost her eyesight 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.

She 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 Inclusion Advisor at Light for the World.

She received the Right Livelihood Award along with three other Laureates for #RightLivelihood2017 who were also announced today: Khadija Ismayilova, Colin Gonsalves and Robert Biott.

Please find more information on the award -- often referred to as the alternative Nobel Prize -- on the website of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.