8 March – Celebrating Women
On the occasion of 8 March, International Women’s Day, we are shining the spotlight on eight female Right Livelihood Award Laureates who are working to make a difference for women around the world. From Afghanistan to Uganda, these courageous women stand up for girls’ education, women’s health and reproductive rights, promote economic and political empowerment, and fight against impunity, violence and discrimination.
Asma Jahangir is a Pakistani lawyer who has been providing free legal aid to women who cannot defend themselves. Throughout her career, she has focused on preventing violence against women, speaking out against the so-called ´honour killings´ and religious violence. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 2013.
Sima Samar is a doctor for the poor, an educator of the marginalised and defender of the human rights of all in Afghanistan. Since 2004, she has chaired the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission that holds human rights violators accountable, a commitment that has often put her own life at risk. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 2012.
Asha Hagi Elmi is a Somali politician and peace activist. At great personal risk, she has mobilised women in the cause of peace across clan and political divides and continues to play a vital role in mediating across warring clans in the ongoing peace process. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 2008.
Catherine Hamlin came to Ethiopia from Australia in 1959 to work as an obstetrician and gynaecologist at a hospital in Addis Ababa. With her husband Reginald she pioneered the surgical treatment of obstetric fistula. The Hamlins, together with the hospital staff, have treated more than 45,000 women since. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 2009.
Chadian lawyer and 2011 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Jacqueline Moudeina has defended the victims of Hissène Habré’s regime for over 20 years. In 2016, the Extraordinary African Chambers of the Senegalese Courts found the former Chadian dictator guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to life in prison.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2015, is the face of the LGBT movement in Uganda. Operating within a hostile and repressive environment, she has shed light on human rights violations, and has successfully used the judicial system to advance LGBTI rights.
Monika Hauser is the founder of medica mondiale, which works to prevent and punish sexual violence against women and girls in wartime and to assist the survivors. Hauser and her colleagues have helped over 70,000 traumatised women and girls in war and post-war crisis zones in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, DR Congo, Liberia and Afghanistan, often despite great risks to their own security.
Helen Mack Chang’s life suddenly changed in September 1990 when her sister, Myrna Mack, a social anthropologist who studied impacts of the internal armed conflict in Guatemala, was brutally assassinated by a military commando. Certain that her sister’s death was a political crime, Mack Chang fought to bring to justice those responsible, triggering wide-ranging reforms against impunity and corruption. She received the Right Livelihood Award in 1992.
Among the 166 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, 47 are women and several others are organisations led by and focused on women. The first female Laureate was Petra Kelly, one of the founders of the German Green Party, who was awarded in 1982 “…for forging and implementing a new vision uniting ecological concerns with disarmament, social justice and human rights.”
As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we salute these and other Right Livelihood Award Laureates working towards the realisation of women’s rights and gender equality around the world.