Cameroonian gender and peace activist Marthe Wandou and three others have been awarded the 2021 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the alternative Nobel Prize.
Wandou was awarded “for building a model of community-based child protection in the face of terrorist insurgency and gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region of Cameroon.”
Through community-based intervention, she has campaigned to change harmful cultural practices, such as early marriage and assisted survivors of violence by the Boko Haram extremist group operating in the Lake Chad Basin, cementing her as one of the leading voices for the protection of girls and women in the region, the Right Livelihood Foundation said.
“Through her organisation Action Locale pour un Développement Participatif et Autogéré (ALDEPA), which she founded in 1998, Wandou has supported the wellbeing of girls through a holistic approach based on education, psychosocial care and legal assistance,” the Right Livelihood Foundation said.
“More than 50,000 girls have benefited so far from ALDEPA’s work, which is rooted in mobilising entire communities, especially through the involvement of parents, children and community leaders. The organisation has assisted with the gradual eradication of the practice of early marriage. It has also provided school and life skills support, and capacity building for children and child protection actors. ALDEPA has also helped families prosecute cases of rape, abduction and physical violence.”
The other winners of the 2021 Right Livelihood Award are Vladimir Sliwjak of Russia, Freda Huson of Canada and the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) in India.
Freda Huson from the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada is a pipeline opponent and Vladimir Sliwjak is an environmentalist in Russia. The LIFE initiative in India is also fighting for the environment and citizens’ rights.
All four award winners share an approach of “successfully empowering and mobilising local communities”, the Right Livelihood Foundation said, explaining its choice. “They become agents of change where governments fail,” said Ole von Uexküll, director of the foundation.
The Right Livelihood Foundation was founded by the Swedish-German philanthropist and stamp collector Jakob von Uexküll, the uncle of the current Foundation Director.
Uexküll approached the Nobel Foundation in 1979 with the idea of introducing a new Nobel Prize for the Environment. To finance it, he offered to sell his valuable stamp collection. Because the Nobel Foundation refused, he set up his own prize.
In contrast to last year, the award ceremony in Stockholm will again take place live with guests and awardees.
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