Laureates 2017

ANA ELVIA ARANA - Columbia

A TIRELESS FIGHTER FOR A BALANCED ENVIRONMENT

Ana Elvia Arana, 57, from Columbia was born in 1960 in the rural part of Tulua, in the Valle del Cauca. Her childhood was intrinsically linked to the world of the countryside and very early she felt a deep attachment to nature. As a child, she learned to read and write thanks to a national literacy program on the radio. Listening to various programs on old civilizations awoke in her a deep yearning to learn. She had a strong desire to go to school. So, when she was 11, her mother moved to a small township where there was a school.

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ANNE POELINA – Australia

AN EXCEPTIONAL FIGURE AMONG THE FIRST NATIONS OF THE WORLD

An exceptionally gifted and culturally grounded woman from the aboriginal population of Australia, now aged 60, Anne Poelina's contribution to the rural women of her country, especially Western Australia, is deeply inspiring both from a personal and professional perspective. Her work and values, the principles upon which it is based, is a model of community service and advocacy that transcends culture, ethnicity and gender. She has been able to build trust and respect for her work at all levels, from her indigenous grass roots community engagement to the highest levels of government and industry. This world-traveled Ph.D. keeps the closest contacts with the most humble members of her First nation community.

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APSARA CHAPAGAIN - Nepal

PROMOTING WOMEN THROUGH FORESTRY MANAGEMENT

It is thanks to the tireless work of people like this candidate that Nepal has become recognized as a world leader in this field due to one of the most successful decentralized forest management projects ever set up. About 8 million people (out of a total population approaching 29 million) are involved in community forestry, and almost a third of Nepal's forests are protected and managed by over 20'000 Community Forestry User Groups (CFUG) who consider these areas to be hamro ban ("our forest").

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CHOTI KUMARI SINGH, Ratanpur, Bihar - India

EMPOWERING THE POWERLESS

Choti, now 20, is an upper caste young woman who at 17 started social and educational work in her own village, Ratanpur, in the ranks of Amrita SeRVe, an NGO born of the well-known spiritual leader Amma's work. She started her activities with the most downtrodden of the downtrodden, the Musahar Dalit (=untouchables) community of Bihar, for which the Bihar government has even coined a new term: mahadalit, which means very oppressed. Only 6 percent of adult men and 2 percent of adult women of the community are literate. Hygiene is almost inexistent, children are never vaccinated.

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ESTHER NAKAJJIGO - Uganda

A COURAGEOUS OPPONENT OF TEENAGE PREGANCY

Already as a teenager, Esther, 21, of Munyonyo, Uganda took upon herself, without any outside prompting, to start the uphill battle against this plague in an area, which has been called "probably Africa's most complex and difficult place to live", the Kalangala district in the islands of Lake Victoria. There is a remarkably high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, generally poor health, lack of government services, frequent family breakdown, widespread belief in witchcraft, alcoholism and very high levels of commercial sex work. In addition, strangers from the mainland come there to escape the stigma of HIV/AIDS and the law.

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LEVU CHUTE ADI VASULEVU MEREWALESI - FIJI

A VERSATILE GRASS-ROOTS DEVELOPER

This nominee, 54, is a champion rural transitional woman leader. Her exemplary leadership as a rural woman has gained recognition at many levels in Fiji. For the past twenty years, she has provided safe spaces for women from different ethnic communities to work together on issues affecting women around peace and harmony.

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MANJU VERMA – India

OVERCOMING ALL THE ODDS

Born in the village of Lawan, not far from Jaipur, Manju Verma, 41, seemed to have all the cards stacked against her. She belongs to the "Regar" community, considered a low cast community of cobblers and untouchables. As her family could not pay for her education, at 17 she was "married off" to a young man of 20. A cobbler, he would spent a great part of his miserable income on alcohol and other addictions, and very soon started beating Manju for any and every reason imaginable.

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MUQADAS AABROO - Pakistan

AN EXCEPTIONAL CHAMPION OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Muqadas Aarbroo, 26, was born in an area where girls were not welcome nor allowed to attend school. But her mother took a strong stand for her daughters education, and from her early years Muqadas joined the struggle for women's rights, despite the fact that in the Muzaffargarh district of Southern Punjab, located in a flood-prone area between the Indus and Chenab rivers, girl's education is very much frowned upon and many women in the area have not even registered to vote. Century old customs prevent women from attending mixed gatherings, associating freely, making their own decisions.

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TUGRUG UUGAN-ERDENE – Mongolia

A POWERFUL PROMOTER OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

This exceptional candidate, now 42, has made major inroads in an astonishing number of areas of her home province, Khovd. She grew up as a herds-girl in a remote area of rural Mongolia, working her way up till she occupied a prestigious NGO job overseeing hundreds of thousands of dollars of project funds. Despite the prestigious, extremely well paid job, she quit, as she couldn't stand the corruption and conflicts of interest inherent in her job.

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VANJA WALLEMYR – Sweden

A PIONEER OF CLEAN ENERGY

At the beginning of the millennium, there was a significant rise in the demand for wind power and energy in Sweden, especially in rural communities. Vanja, 58, was part of the early networks that formed around these issues – often as the only woman present. In the Skaraborg region where Vanja lives and works as a farmer, there was talk about starting uranium mining in the area, and many local protests accompanied the early test drillings. Vanja was one of the early opponents of these drillings, given her strong convictions in the field of clean energy and that wind power was one important way of reaching sustainability in this area.

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