Alternative Nobel Prize to peace work, social justice

Winners from Germany, India, Somalia and the United States were cited Wednesday for peace work and social justice when the 2008 Right Livelihood Awards, often called the Alternative Nobel Prize, were announced, reported dpa.  Four of the five prize winners were women, Ole von Uexkull of the Right Livelihood Foundation said, noting the awards have a more even gender distribution than the traditional Nobel prizes awarded for science, literature, peace and economics. Award winners were nevertheless selected "for what they have accomplished," von Uexkull told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. German-based gynaecologist Monika Hauser, founder of Medica Mondiale, was awarded for "her tireless commitment to working with women who have experienced the most horrific sexualized violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world," jury member Marianne Andersson said. Swiss-born Hauser, who carries an Italian passport, and her Cologne-based organization have worked with women and girls in war and post-war conflict zones ranging from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Hauser has said the situation in the DRC was "likely the most terrible" of the conflict-areas she had experienced, von Uexkull said. Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan of India, and their organization Land for the Tillers' Freedom (LAFTI) were cited for "realizing in practice the Gandhian vision of social justice and sustainable human development," the jury said of their work to distribute land to the landless. As of 2007, LAFTI had transferred some 13,000 acres and also runs community development programmes in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. "Land is very important," von Uexkull told dpa, saying it served as a social security network in India. Amy Goodman of the US, who founded the daily grassroots global TV/radio news hour Democracy Now! was honoured for "developing an innovative model of truly independent political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media." Von Uexkull said it was the first time a journalist had been awarded the prize, adding Goodman used "innovative" methods to syndicate and produce the news programme distributed for TV, radio and online media. Asha Hagi of Somalia was lauded "for continuing to lead at great personal risk the female participation in the peace and reconciliation process in her war-ravaged country." Hagi along with other women founded in 2000 the so-called Sixth Clan, the clan of women, giving women a voice in the peace process in Somalia and conducting "shuttle-diplomacy" between their husbands who belonged to different clans, von Uexkull said. This year's award is worth 2 million kronor (300,000 dollars) and was to be shared equally between the four award winners. A total of 91 candidates from 44 countries were nominated. Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull created the prize in 1980 "to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today." The awards are to be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish parliament on December 8. Due to "old age" Sankaralingam Jagannathan, who was born 1912, was not able to travel to Stockholm, Andersson said.

Last year, the prize was awarded to legal scholar Christopher Weeramantry from Sri Lanka and Dekkha Ibrahim Abdi of Kenya for bridging ethnic and cultural divides as well as Percy and Louise Schmeiser of Canada for work against genetic engineering of crops. Bangladesh's Grameen Shakti organization was cited for its work to promote solar energy for the rural poor.

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