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Greta Thunberg and Indigenous Amazon Defender Among Visionary Campaigners Honored With Right Livelihood Awards

The Right Livelihood Foundation celebrated four "practical visionaries whose leadership has empowered millions of people to defend their inalienable rights and to strive for a livable future for all on planet Earth."

The Right Livelihood Foundation awarded four campaigners for women's rights, climate action, non-violence, and the protection of the Amazon rainforest with the 2019 Right Livelihood awards on Wednesday. (Image: Rights Livelihood Foundation/Twitter)

Four campaigners from across the globe were awarded the 2019 Right Livelihood Award on Wednesday for their tireless efforts in fighting for non-violence, women's rights, climate action, and environmental protection.

Aminatou Haidar of Western Sahara, Guo Jianmei of China, Greta Thunberg of Sweden, and Davi Kopenawa and the Hutukara Yanomami Association of Brazil were announced as the winners of what is often called the "alternative Nobel Peace Prize" at a press conference given by the Right Livelihood Foundation in Stockholm.

The four award winners were honored for their work as "practical visionaries whose leadership has empowered millions of people to defend their inalienable rights and to strive for a liveable future for all on planet Earth."

The foundation highlighted the campaigners' work in a video posted to YouTube:

The four were each awarded 1 million Swedish krona ($102,000).

Haidar was honored for leading the non-violent resistance to Morocco's decades-long occupation of Western Sahara.

For her efforts on behalf of the Sahrawi people, the foundation said, "she was arrested and tortured. But she will not be silenced."

"This is a recognition of my non-violent struggle and the just cause of the Sahrawi people," Haidar said in response to the award. "Despite military occupation and violations of fundamental human rights, they continue their peaceful struggle. The Sahrawis deserve to be supported by all so that, one day, they will achieve independence and freedom."

Chinese lawyer and women's rights defender Guo Jianmei was honored with the Right Livelihood Award for "her pioneering and persistent work in securing women's rights in China."

Guo defends disadvantaged women in cases involving domestic violence, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and has offered free legal counseling to more than 120,00 women over the past two decades.

"This award recognizes and acknowledges the efforts of my team and me to uphold women's rights and promote democracy and the rule of law in China, under difficult circumstances for the past 25 years," Guo said. "Currently, pro bono legal work in China is facing enormous challenges. To stand firm, we will need more passion, courage, perseverance, and commitment. This award serves as an encouragement and motivation."

The foundation awarded indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami tribe of Brazil for his "courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples." His foundation, the Hutukara Yanomami Association, was also honored.

Kopenawa and the association "protect Yanomami lands in the Amazon from exploitation, which threaten both biodiversity and the very existence of indigenous tribes."

As Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has urged loggers and ranchers to destroy nearly five million acres of the Amazon Rainforest in recent months, the Right Livelihood Award "comes just at the right time," Kopenawa said. 

"The award gives me the strength to continue the fight to defend the soul of the Amazon forest," he added. "We, the peoples of the planet, need to preserve our cultural heritage as Omame [the Creator] taught—to live well caring for our land so that future generations continue to use it."

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate action leader whose one-person climate strike evolved into weekly demonstrations drawing thousands all over the world and eventually the Global Climate Strike which drew four million people last week, was also honored in Stockholm.

Thunberg spoke at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday, condemning world leaders whose inaction has forced her and thousands of other young people to walk out of their classrooms and demand an end to climate-warming fossil fuel extraction.

Thunberg said she was "deeply grateful" for the honor and pointed to climate campaigners from all over the world who participated in the Global Climate Strike, saying the award belonged to all in the climate action movement.

"Whenever I receive an award, it is not me who is the winner," said Thunberg. "I am part of a global movement of school children, youth and adults of all ages who have decided to act in defense of our living planet. I share this award with them. The Right Livelihood Award is a huge recognition for Fridays For Future and the climate strike movement."

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