Else Kröner Fresenius Stiftung

Yetnebersh Nigussie – a blind woman sharpens our focus on justice

One in seven people on our planet is living with a disability. This is a statement made by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation in their “World Report on Disability”. As a result, more than a billion people often live on the margins of society, frequently displaced, afflicted, forgotten. The presentation of this year’s Right Livelihood Award on 1 December in Stockholm makes a strong voice from Ethiopia the global crusader for the rights of those who, at least since the inception of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, should be experiencing normal inclusion. But they aren’t.

Yetnebersh Nigussie has a fascinating personal life story: Living in rural Ethiopia, she loses her sight at the age of just five. A fortunate set of circumstances leads her to a Catholic boarding school, where, as one of the most gifted students, she begins her career, later gaining her law degree. Yetnebersh Nigussie is one of the most prominent campaigners against marginalisation and for the inclusion of people with disabilities. As she is fond of saying: “I have one disability and 99 abilities, yet most people tend to see only my disability!” As an employee of the charity organisation “Light for the World”, Yetnebersh Nigussie raised her bold voice in the massive Chamber of Human Rights of the United Nations in Geneva and at the UNO in New York, pricking the global conscience with multi-faceted statements: “Nothing about us without us!”

Prof. Dr. Siegfried Priglinger, Director of the University Eye Clinic in Munich and honorary member of the board of Light for the World never tires of highlighting the following: “One in two blind people in Ethiopia suffers from cataracts and, in many cases, they could be cured of years of blindness with a 15-minute operation!” With the establishment of two university eye clinics in Ethiopia – in the towns of Jimma and Gondar - Light for the World has reached a milestone in providing sustainable ophthalmic aid. The joint struggle against poverty-related blindness unites the Munich experts with this year’s Alternative Nobel Prize winner. The Else Kröner-Fresenius Stiftung has been supporting the nationwide training of the so urgently needed ophthalmic specialists in Ethiopia for four years, for the benefit of particularly disadvantaged people suffering from ophthalmic diseases and blindness. This is because more than 600,000 blind people in Ethiopia suffer from cataracts, and they could be cured with eye surgery.In Yetnebersh Nigussie´s case, help came too late for her eyesight. And it is for that reason that this great, blind woman is sharpening our focus on justice in the world.