A 35-year-old human rights lawyer, Yetnebersh Nigussie has been named a joint winner of the 2017 Right Livelihood Award.
The blind Ethiopian woman won the award also known as Sweden’s alternative Nobel Prize for her incessant advocacy for the rights of persons with disability.
She was given the enviable 3 million Swedish crowns ($374,000) on Tuesday which will be shared among the three joint winners.
After receiving the award, the highly elated Yetnebersh Nigussie said “I really want to see a world where nobody is discriminated because of his or her disability or any other status.”
She reportedly became blind when she was only five years old and had to grapple with stigma by her community who thought she was unfit.
Despite the stigmatization, her parents endeavoured to enroll her at the Catholic boarding school for girls with disabilities in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
There was a tremendous transformation in her life owing to the education at the school for girls with disabilities.
Nigussie is also a senior advisor at a charity organisation that promotes disability rights. She admitted how far reaching education has been for her and for that reason, chose to make a difference through constant advocacy.
While in school she had to transcribe audio recordings of her legal books into braille throughout of her five-year degree as one of only three women to study law at Addis Ababa University in 2002.
The award-winning lawyer believes she owes all her achievements to education. She said “I was lucky to be educated. Education was a turning point that changed my blindness into an opportunity.”
After graduating from law school, she helped establish the Center for Students with Disabilities at the Addis Ababa University and the Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD).
Eventhough Nigussie has won several awards prior to this, she said the Right Livelihood Award is her biggest so far.
The mother of two daughters won the joint prize with Colin Gonsalves, an Indian human rights lawyer, and female journalist Khadija Ismayilova for revealing government corruption in Azerbaijan.