Winners of the 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards show great courage and commitment to social change

Suva, Fiji – An Egyptian activist and journalist, a young Guyanese change-maker, a Nigerian mental health organisation, and a German philanthropic foundation have been named winners of the coveted 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards.

The Awards, named for human rights icon Nelson Mandela and former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique, humanitarian Graça Machel, honour remarkable bravery and innovation in creating social change and empowering future generations.

Graça Machel says of the initiative, “Awards like this are so significant because the winners truly are ‘sparks of hope’ with the potential to inspire many others. It’s important that those of us with the freedom to speak out, use our voices to lift up these courageous individuals and organisations”.

The awards recognise outstanding efforts in four categories: Youth Activist, Individual Activist, Civil Society Organisation and Brave Philanthropy.

Youth Activist category winner, Jubilanté Cutting from Guyana, is pioneering the development of opportunities to help Caribbean youth shape the future of the digital and creative industries. In 2016, at just 19, she founded the Guyana Animation Network – an organisation that empowers young people with skills in digital media and animation.

On being told she had won, Ms. Cutting said: “As a young Guyanese woman, the stories of Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel that I read about in my history classes felt so real but yet so far away. I could never have imagined that I would one day receive an award named in honour of these heroes”.

Individual Activist category winner, Khaled Elbalshy, is an Egyptian human rights defender, journalist and chief editor of the Al Bedaiah online newspaper. In a nation where media freedom is under constant attack, Khaled has boldly and relentlessly pursued the cause of free speech, despite facing judicial and online harassment.

Said Mr. Elbalshy: “This Award is a powerful recognition of all who are defending freedom of the press in Egypt. It is also a message to the more than 20 imprisoned journalists that their voices are still able to penetrate even the walls of prison.”

Civil Society Organisation category winner, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI), is on a mission to change the face of mental health in Nigeria. Despite limited funding and significant stigma, MANI has quickly become the country’s largest and most active mental health organisation.

Said Victor Ugo, founder of MANI and himself a medical professional: “This is an auspicious moment for us and we want to dedicate it to every Nigerian youth coping with mental illness. We are motivated to keep up the discussion and hope our voice will continue to resonate both within and beyond our borders.”

Brave Philanthropy category winner, the German-based Guerrilla Foundation, is far from the traditional funder. Where much of the philanthropic sector tends towards well-established organisations and more conservative approaches, GF is instead focused on supporting frontline activists and grassroots movements.

GF’s Ivan Juric said: “It is an absolute honour. Courage in philanthropy is truly lacking and it is a field that craves bravery far more than it knows. We hope to give a nudge - or thrust - to that end!”

The four winners were selected from some 300 nominations from across the globe. They will be honoured at a ceremony on 7 December in Suva, Fiji as part of International Civil Society Week. For the first time this year, the Awards have been run in collaboration with The Elders – a group of independent leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. Specifically, the Awards form part of the #WalkTogether campaign, catalysed by The Elders with civil society partner networks. #WalkTogether seeks to celebrate ‘sparks of hope’ like the Award winners, who are inspiring hope, compassion and empathy at a time when the dark forces of fear, xenophobia and hate speech represent a profound threat to global freedoms and unity.

“When my late husband and I first lent our names to these Awards, we had no idea that more than a decade later, they would still be going. Today, I am joined by my fellow Elders in honouring the winners of the 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards. We invite everyone to join us, to help continue Mandela’s long walk to freedom by supporting courageous voices working for freedoms all over the world," said Ms. Machel.

The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards are led by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, through the Civic Space Initiative. Together with CIVICUS’ SPEAK! campaign, the Awards seek to celebrate, promote, and defend the voices of ordinary citizens in ensuring a more just and sustainable future for all.

For more information, contact:

Nic Mackay

SPEAK! / Innovation Awards Coordinator

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

+27 79 168 7101

2017 CIVICUS Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Awards

Background Information

QUICK FACTS:

  • Almost 300 nominations were submitted
  • 20 nominees were shortlisted across the four Award categories
  • Around 10,000 people showed support via social media for their favourite shortlisted nominees

YOUTH ACTIVIST CATEGORY:

Winner: Jubilanté Cutting

Organisation: Guyana Animation Network

Country: Guyana

Jubilanté Cutting is pioneering the development of opportunities, skills, and connections to enable young people of the Caribbean to shape the future of the digital and creative industries. In 2016, at just 19, Jubilanté founded the Guyana Animation Network – an organisation that helps youth to develop skills in digital media and animation. It has since engaged over 3,500 people, including children as young as 6, and begun linking artists and animators with some of the world’s leading experts and entrepreneurs. And she’s done it all while completing her legal degree and working as a part-time paralegal at one of the country’s leading law firms.

Read media release on the Youth Activist Award winner, Jubilanté Cutting here,

INDIVIDUAL ACTIVIST CATEGORY:

Winner: Khaled Elbalshy

Organisation: Al Bedaiah

Country: Egypt

Khaled Elbalshy is an Egyptian human rights defender, journalist, and chief editor of the Al Bedaiah online newspaper. In a nation where media freedom is under constant attack, Khaled has boldly and relentlessly pursued the cause of free speech, despite facing personal judicial and online harassment. He established the Front to Defend Journalists and Freedoms, which has succeeded in having several journalists released from detention. He has also sought every available platform to shine a light on violations by the government and share these with the world, and has actively mentored younger journalists to defend their own rights and the rights of others.

Read media release on the Individual Activist Award winner, Khaled Elbalshy here,

CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATION CATEGORY:

Winner: Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative

Country: Nigeria

The Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative is on a mission to change the face of mental health. Despite limited funding and significant stigma, MANI has quickly become the country’s largest and most active mental health organisation. They have used social media to build an online community of almost 20,000, where young Nigerians can share openly about their stories and challenges, and find acceptance and support. The organisation also runs a 24-hour suicide and distress hotline, and holds monthly events, which include visits to prisons, secondary schools, neuropsychiatric hospitals.

Read media release on the Civil Society Organisation Award winner, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative here,

BRAVE PHILANTHROPY CATEGORY:

Winner: Guerrilla Foundation

Country: Germany

The Guerrilla Foundation, as the name suggests, are far from the traditional philanthropic funder. Where much of the sector tends towards well-established organisations and more conservative approaches, GF is instead focused on supporting systemic activism and grassroots movements, some of which can’t even publicly acknowledge the funding they receive. Their grant making extends across Europe, with a priority on Southern and Eastern Europe. GF is also supporting the development of the first European Participatory Fund for grant-making, which will allow activists to be the decision makers as to where funds go and how they will shape their communities.

Read media release on the Brave Philanthropy Award winner, Guerrilla Foundation here,

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