2008 Right Livelihood Awards to champions of indept journalism, peace-building & social justice Print E-mail

Champions of independent journalism, peace-building and social justice honoured in 2008 with SEK 2 million prize shared between four recipients: Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan, and their organisation LAFTI (Land for the Tillers' Freedom, India), Amy Goodman (USA), Asha Hagi (Somalia) and Monika Hauser (Germany)

Krishnammal Jagannathan

Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan, and their organisation LAFTI (Land for the Tillers' Freedom) (India), who receive an Award "for two long lifetimes of work dedicated to realising in practice the Gandhian vision of social justice and sustainable human development, for which they have been referred to as 'India's soul'."

Krishnammal Jagannathan and Sankaralingam Jagannathan are two lifelong activists for social justice, and for sustainable human development, working with those who are at the lowest rung of the social ladder. They have carried the Gandhian legacy into the 21st century, never ceasing to serve the needs of Dalits, landless and those threatened by the greed of landlords and multinational corporations.

Early lives (1930-1950)
Krishnammal Jagannathan was born to a landless Dalit family in 1926. Despite her family's poverty, she obtained university level education and was soon committed to the Gandhian Sarvodaya Movement, through which she met her husband, Sankaralingam Jagannathan (born in 1912), also a noted Gandhian.

Sankaralingam Jagannathan came from a rich family but gave up his college studies in 1930 in response to Gandhi's call for non-cooperation and disobedience. He joined the Quit India Movement in 1942 and spent three and a half years in jail before India gained its independence in 1947. During this time he already had considerable impact as campaigner on behalf of the poor.

Sankaralingam and Krishnammal married in 1950, having decided only to marry in independent India.

Redistributing land to the landless

Sankaralingam Jagannathan and Krishnammal Jagannathan decided early in their life that one of the key requirements for building a Gandhian society is empowering the rural poor by redistribution of land to the landless.

From 1950 to 1952 Sankaralingam Jagannathan was with Vinoba Bhave (the spiritual teacher of Gandhi) in Northern India on his Bhoodan (land-gift) Padayatra (pilgrimage on foot), the march appealing to landlords to give one sixth of their land to the landless, while Krishnammal completed her teacher-training course in Madras. He then returned to Tamil Nadu to start the Bhoodhan movement, and until 1968 the two worked for land redistribution through Vinoba Bhave's Gramdan movement (Village Gift, the next phase of the land-gift movement), and through Satyagraha (non-violent resistance). For this work, Sankaralingam Jagannathan was imprisoned many times. Between 1953 and 1967, the couple played an active role in the Bhoodhan movement spearheaded by Vinoba Bhave, through which about 4 million acres of land were distributed to thousands of landless poor across several Indian states.

Much land given over under these campaigns was infertile. To make it productive Sankaralingam Jagannathan started in 1968 the Association of Sarva Seva Farmers (ASSEFA) of which he was Chairman until 1993, and which has become one of the best known, and most effective, Indian non-governmental development institutions, whose work spreads over a number of states. ASSEFA's essential enduring technique, rooted in Gandhian philosophy and based on deep commitment, applies to all Sankaralingam Jagannathan's and Krishnammal Jagannathan's work: to confront a practical problem with a down-to-earth approach of planning and action. The participants in this work share amongst themselves the fruit of the labour and show to others in a practical way that the improbable is not impossible.

After a particularly horrific incident in 1968, the brutal burning of 42 landless women and children following a wage-dispute, the couple started to work in Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu to concentrate on land reform issues.

The birth of LAFTI

In 1981, the couple founded LAFTI, Land for the Tillers' Freedom. LAFTI's purpose was to bring the landlords and landless poor to the negotiating table, obtain loans to enable the landless to buy land at reasonable price and then to help them work it cooperatively, so that the loans could be repaid.

Progress was initially slow: banks were unwilling to lend and the stamp duty on the registration of small lots was exorbitant. But Krishnammal Jagannathan managed to overcome the political and bureaucratic hurdles. By 2007 LAFTI had transferred 13,000 acres since it began work to about 13,000 families through social action and through a land-purchase program.

LAFTI now has a seven member Executive Committee, of which Krishnammal Jagannathan is the first secretary, a general body with 20 people from the villages, and about 40 staff.

LAFTI's other activities and outreach programmes

Although a prime focus, land-redistribution is by no means the only concern of LAFTI. It also runs village industries, like mat-weaving, rope-making, carpentry, masonry, fishery, etc. and gives training to Dalit boys and girls. To bridge the digital divide, LAFTI organizes computer training for underprivileged, particularly Dalit girls. It also organises Gram Sabhas (village committees) in 100 villages in East Thanjavur district, with a team of 30 dedicated men and women, who are now actively engaged in implementing the LAFTI programme.

LAFTI's economic activities are substantial: Brick kilns have been constructed and many houses built, and fish farming established on a significant scale. LAFTI was also very constructively involved in the famine relief programmes in 1987 and the reconstruction programme after the tsunami in the Nagapattinam coastal area.

Before LAFTI came in, the land-site on which the landless labourers lived did not belong to them and they were often evicted by landlords or government in the name of development. Due to LAFTI's efforts, the government has enacted a bill by which the land-site on which a labourer's thatched hut is located is legally allocated to the family. The 'people-participatory-environmental-friendly' house-building project, in which one adult member of the family contributes labour, is currently benefiting about 5000 families.

Protecting the coastal ecosystem and struggling against prawn farms
Since 1992 Sankaralingam Jagannathan and Krishnammal Jagannathan have addressed another major land challenge to the poor of the region: the establishment of prawn farms along the coast. The problem is not because of the local landlords but big industrialists from capital cities like Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Hyderabad, occupying large areas of land (500-1000 acres) for aquaculture in coastal areas, which not only throws the landless labour out of employment but also converts fertile and cultivable land to salty desert after seven or eight years when the prawn companies move on. It also results in the seepage of seawater into the groundwater in the neighbourhood, so that people are deprived of their drinking water resources. The result is that even more small farmers sell their meagre land-holdings to multinational prawn companies and move to the cities, filling urban slums.

To address this human and ecological tragedy Sankaralingam Jagannathan organised the whole of LAFTI's village movement to raise awareness among the people to oppose the prawn farms. Since 1993, villagers have offered Satygraha (non-violent resistance), through rallies, fasts, and demonstrations in protest of establishing the prawn farms. They have been beaten up by hired goons, their houses have been burnt, and LAFTI workers have been imprisoned, because of false accusations of looting and arson. Undeterred by this, Sankaralingam Jagannathan filed a 'public interest petition' in the Indian Supreme Court, which in turn asked NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Institute of India) to investigate the matter. NEERI's investigation report highlighted the environmental cost of the prawn farms to the nation and recommended all prawn farms within 500 meters of the coast to be banned.

In December 1996, the Supreme Court issued a ruling against intensive shrimp farming in cultivable lands within 500 meters of the coastal area. But because of the prawn farmers' local political influence, the Supreme Court judgement was not implemented on the ground. The legal battle around the prawn farms is still not resolved and the Jagannathans continue their struggle to establish non-exploitative, eco-friendly communities in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu.

Further achievements and honours

In their lives, Sankaralingam Jagannathan and Krishnammal Jagannathan, either independently or together, have established a total of seven non-governmental institutions for the poor. Besides this, Krishnammal Jagannathan has also played an active role in wider public life: she has been a Senate member of the Gandhigram Trust and University and of Madurai University; a member of a number of local and state social welfare committees; and a member of the National Committee on Education, the Land Reform Committee and the Planning Committee.

These activities have gained for the Jagannathans a high profile in India and they have won many prestigious Awards: the Swami Pranavananda Peace Award (1987); the Jamnalal Bajaj Award (1988) and Padma Shri in 1989. In 1996 the couple received the Bhagavan Mahaveer Award "for propagating non-violence." In 1999 Krishnammal was awarded a Summit Foundation Award (Switzerland), and in 2008 an 'Opus Prize' given by the University of Seattle.

"Vinoba Bhave, by whom my husband and I were inspired said 'Jai Jegath' (Long Live the World) and he was convinced this is possible by awakening of 'Sthree-shakthi' (women-power). I sincerely believe that the social, economic and spiritual crisis we are facing today in the world can be overcome through universal sisterhood and science and spirituality coming together for the good of the entire humanity!"  -- Krishnammal Jagannathan

Amy Goodman (Michael Kee)

Amy Goodman (USA), founder and award-winning host of Democracy Now!, a daily grassroots, global tv/radio news hour, is 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."

The media is sometimes called the fourth power in a democracy. But in many countries of the world, the media is today no longer willing or able to play this role. Instead it defers to commercial and political interests, thus eroding democracy. With Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman has shown what the alternative to this dangerous trend can look like. Democracy Now! is the largest public media collaboration in the U.S. which is now available to people seeking alternative viewpoints around the globe.

Amy Goodman was born in 1957, graduated from Harvard in 1984 and became news director at the New York radio station WBAI a few years later. In 1996 she launched the daily one-hour news broadcast Democracy Now!, which she now hosts with Juan Gonzales, and which is produced live from 08.00 to 09.00 US EST.

Unembedded reporting
Democracy Now! focuses on issues its producers consider under-reported or ignored by mainstream news coverage, like global news or reporting on anti-war activism in the U.S. It provides hard-hitting, independent, breaking coverage of war and peace, U.S. domestic and foreign policy, and struggles for social, racial, economic, gender and environmental justice in the U.S. and abroad.

Democracy Now! seeks to give voice to the voiceless. Its broadcasts include:

  • in-depth interviews with community members, activists, academics, artists and journalists shut out by the mainstream media,
  • debates between activists and people in power,
  • investigative reports and exclusive interviews with usual and controversial guests,
  • and on-the-ground reporting from protests, the recent conventions and hot spots round the world

Democracy Now! - Facts and figures
Democracy Now! is the fastest growing independent news program in the USA. The show is now syndicated to more than 700 radio and TV, satellite and cable TV networks in North America reaching millions of people worldwide.

Democracy Now! is produced by seven producers, 20 full-time and 15 paid part-time staff as well as many volunteers. Broadcast daily as an hourly TV show, but with its founding on radio, it is produced in such a way that the stories never rely on the pictures, which allows it to be sent out as a radio show on community radio stations all over the US.

Democracy Now! has an outreach team working to encourage communities to demand that their community radio stations transmit the programme.

Democracy Now!'s innovative technical solutions allow for high usability for any kind of audience. There is 'close captioning' for deaf people and numerous voluntary transcribers produce full transcripts of the show. On the website, there are different types of streams and downloads, e.g. audio files, but also high-quality video files that are sent out, for example, by a Japanese TV channel once a week. Democracy Now! also keeps a complete archive of all its shows, which people can research for free.

Democracy Now! receives no government or corporate funding. Because of its educational mission, it has charitable status according to US law (501c3). Major organisational donors have been the Lannan Foundation and the Wallace Global Fund. Significant contributions also come from listeners themselves.

Trickle-up journalism
Goodman describes Democracy Now! as 'trickle-up journalism', because the stories it runs are often taken up by the mainstream media and her interviewees are very often interviewed by other channels after they have appeared on Democracy Now! Thus, the significance of Democracy Now! goes beyond the show as such: It also serves to open up the media landscape, acting as a 'conveyor belt' for stories that otherwise would not reach the mainstream media.

Awards and books
Goodman's awards include the Golden Reel for the Best National Documentary for 'Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria's Oil Dictatorship' in 1998, and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Prize for 'Massacre: the Story of East Timor'. This story had almost cost her life: In East Timor, she survived a massacre in 1991 in which Indonesian soldiers gunned down 270 Timorese.

Goodman has also written three hard-hitting books with her brother, David Goodman: The Exception to the Rulers (2004); Static: Government Liars, Media Cheer-leaders and the People who Fight Back (2006); and Standing up to the Madness (2008). She also syndicates a column to national papers.

Democracy Now! is broadcast daily from 8-9am EST/1-2pm GMT. To watch today's show and for a list of international and domestic stations that carry DN!, please go to www.democracynow.org.

"I am completely honored to have my work and the work of my colleagues held in such high regard, it makes me realize how important the work of bringing a truly independent voice to broadcast news and journalism really is. I really believe in free speech and independent journalism as a tool for peace, for understanding. It is so important, especially during times like these, that the media hold the politicians feet to the fire... we all need the real answers, the truth as best we can. This is why I get up every morning and go to the red firehouse we broadcast from everyday, still as excited as my first day at Democracy Now! over 12 years ago." -- Amy Goodman

  Asha Hagi (Somalia)
The Jury honours Asha Hagi "for continuing to lead at great personal risk the female participation in the peace and reconciliation process in her war-ravaged country."

Asha Hagi has dedicated her life to gaining a better and more peaceful future for her war-torn country, Somalia. At great personal risk, she has fought for women to have a voice in the decisions that affect them. She has mobilized women in the cause of peace across clan and political divides and continues to play a vital role in mediating across warring clans in the on-going peace process. Women in Somalia are in a much stronger position today because of her courage, persistence and compassion.

Career and the SSWC
Born in 1962, Asha Hagi graduated in economics from Somalia National University and holds a Master's degree in business administration from the US International University in Africa.

Asha Hagi co-founded in 1992, and is the current Chair of, Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC), which works for a safe and sustainable Somalia by supporting women to overcome marginalisation, violence and poverty in their communities. SSWC has seven paid staff and nine volunteers. A large part of the humanitarian funding comes directly from the Somali community around the world as well as from international organisations and individual donors.

Representing the women of Somalia
During the Arta peace talks in 2000, Hagi founded, together with other women, the Sixth Clan, the clan of women, to complement the traditional five Somali Clans which are all male-dominated. This became the first time women were represented in a peace process in Somalia. She played a similar role in the Mbagathi Conference in Nairobi (2002-2004), which gave birth to the Transitional Federal Government and the Transitional Federal Parliament, of which Hagi became a member.

In both cases the participation of women in these conferences played a crucial role in their success: Not only did the women represent a broader interest of the Somali citizens, compared to the often very narrow political positions of the men. They were also able to do 'shuttle diplomacy' between the antagonistic factions of the traditional five clans.

Among the women's achievements through the idea of the Sixth Clan are:

  • taking women to the high negotiation table with their own identity (Sixth Clan) and as equal partners in decision making,
  • a 12% quota for women representation in the Transitional Federal Parliament,
  • introduction of fair gender formatting (he / she) in the charter language,
  • the creation of a Ministry for Gender and Family Affairs, and
  • a decree by the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia ensuring a 30% quota for women in the district and regional councils, in national commissions, local committees and conferences

The recent development in Somalia and Hagi's role in the peace process
Late in 2006, events in Somalia took a dramatic turn for the worse. There were two factions in the Transitional Federal Government, which had contrary views relating to peace dialogue or military action involving the Ethiopians. In November 2006, while a group, including Hagi, favouring the former was negotiating with the Islamic Courts Union, which effectively ruled Mogadishu and much of Somalia, the latter was inviting in the Ethiopian army. The Ethiopians took Mogadishu at the end of December, with the deaths of around 1,000 people and widespread destruction of the city. By April 2007, more than 350,000 people had fled the city.

The current situation effectively prevents Hagi, who has spoken out against this development on the global media, from returning to Mogadishu, so that she is now based in Nairobi. However, her organisation SSWC is seeking to give relief in Mogadishu to those who remained, distributing food and hygiene kits to women and children.

Since May 2008, Asha Hagi's focus is on the UN sponsored peace dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance Re-liberation of Somalia in Djibouti, where she is a member of the High Level Political Committee in the Djibouti Peace and Reconciliation Talks.

In the peace talks, Hagi represents a balanced position between the different political interests. However, she does not give way on her most important principle: the need for reconciliation and an inclusive, non-violent political process. Her role requires a lot of courage and is putting her in considerable danger, even outside Somalia.

Further activities
Asha Hagi is a core group member of the Leaders Project, established in 2002, that has brought together more than 300 women leaders from around the world. She is also a member of the Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg. She is a member of the 21 Peace Commissioners from Africa of the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA), and a Board Member of the Africa Peace Forum (APF) and the International Resource Group on Security and Small Arms in the Horn of Africa Region.

Asha Hagi has received a number of awards for her human rights and peace-building work. In 2001, she was made an 'Ambassador for Peace' by the Interreligious and International Federation For World Peace. In 2005, she received the Blue Ribbon Peace Award from the Women Leadership Board of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and the first award of 'Women of Substance' by the African Women Development Fund. In 2006, she received the 'Tombouctou / Women Peacemaking Award' from Femmes Africa Solidarité.

"Asha Hagi has been working tirelessly to help restore peace and stability to her homeland. She has put all her energy into this exercise. I would like to recognise her important role which also sends the key message that Somalis can truly help their country best by working to end the killing rather than having blood on their hands." -- Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative for the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Jury member of the Right Livelihood Award

Monika Hauser (© medica mondiale)

Monika Hauser (Germany), gynaecologist and founder of medica mondiale, receives an Award "for her tireless commitment to working with women who have experienced the most horrific sexualised violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and campaigning for them to receive social recognition and compensation."

Monika Hauser is the founder of medica mondiale, which works to prevent and punish sexual violence against women and girls in wartime and to assist the survivors. Hauser and her colleagues have helped over 70,000 traumatised women and girls in war and post-war crisis zones in Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, DR Congo, Liberia and Afghanistan, often despite great risks to their own security.

Monika Hauser was born in 1959 in Switzerland, and holds an Italian passport due to her family roots in South Tyrol. She completed her doctorate in medicine in Innsbruck and Bologna in 1984, obtained her German medical licence in 1988 and completed her gynaecological specialisation in 1998. She came to work with victims of sexual violence after being exposed as a young doctor in South Tyrol and Germany to women who had experienced rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Bosnia - Building up Medica Zenica
At the end of 1992, Hauser was shocked by the media reports about the tragedy of the Bosnian women, and the instrumentalisation of the survivors in the media, which often reduced the women to mere "rape victims". She assembled a highly motivated team of 20 Bosnian experts, collected the funding needed, brought the complete material for the clinics to Central Bosnia through the frontlines and built up Medica Zenica, a women's therapy centre, in the middle of war-torn Bosnia.

Setting up Medica Zenica, Hauser insisted on a multi-ethnic team. The creation of such a centre in a war situation was pioneering work, even more remarkable in a highly patriarchal and hostile war context.

medica mondiale
Out of these activities medica mondiale gradually evolved. For the next six years Monika Hauser continued to further the development of medica mondiale. She also returned to Zenica for several extended stays. In 1999, she initiated the project medica mondiale Kosova, involving numerous project visits to Albania and Kosovo. In 2000 Monika Hauser assumed the professional and political management of medica mondiale.

medica mondiale's mission
medica mondiale supports and assists women and girls in war zones and areas of crisis, whose physical, psychological, social and political integrity has been violated. This support and assistance is provided irrespective of the women's and girls' political affiliation, ethnic origin or religion. The aim is to strengthen the women's self-healing powers and to support and demand their right to an emancipatory way of life.

medica mondiale has a double strategy of individual professional support and human rights work by

  • establishing sustainable local structures to provide support for survivors of wartime sexual violence,
  • setting up interdisciplinary counselling and therapy centres,
  • capacity building and training of local professional staff, and
  • political advocacy for women's rights
  • Advocacy for women's rights and legal prosecution

Since its formation, medica mondiale has worked for the recognition of sexual violence in wartime as a war crime, for the prosecution of the perpetrators, and against social stigma and the marginalisation of the survivors.

medica mondiale supported the investigations of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, took care of witnesses, monitored court proceedings and protested publicly whenever it saw the interests of women witnesses threatened. medica mondiale also campaigned for the creation of the International Criminal Court, and contributed to the fact that grave sexual violence became explicitly recognised as a war crime and crime against humanity in the ICC's statutes.

Facts and figures
medica mondiale has independent projects in Bosnia and Hercegovina (27 staff), Kosovo (25 staff) and Albania (12 staff), and own projects in Afghanistan (72 staff) and Liberia (17 staff). It supports partner organisations in Cambodia, DR Congo (6 co-operative partners), East Timor, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda and Israel, supported by an office in Cologne, Germany, with 29 staff, plus a similar number of volunteers and 100 women in action groups in several German cities.

medica mondiale estimates to have - directly and indirectly - reached around 100,000 women and girls through their projects. Half of medica mondiale's 2007 budget of 3 million Euros came from private donations. Organisational sources of funds in 2007 included the Sigrid Rausing Trust, KfW Development Bank, UNHCHR, which regards medica mondiale as 'an essential partner' in relation to women and conflict, the European Community, the Danish Embassy in Afghanistan, and the German Government.

In 2005 medica mondiale published Violence Against Women in War, a manual of lessons learned from eleven years of experience in half a dozen countries emerging from war.

Further activities
Monika Hauser lectures regularly at national and international congresses and public events, presenting the work of medica mondiale to the general public and to professional panels. She has also been active as a trainer for the medica mondiale Qualification Programme for Afghan women doctors, nurses and midwives in Kabul.

Hauser has received a number of awards for her work, for example "Woman of the Year" 1993 of the German ARD TV, and the Peter Beier Award of the German Lutheran Church. She turned down the German Federal Cross of Merit in protest against the German Government policy of forced repatriation of Bosnian refugees.

"Every minute, in conflict regions worldwide, women and girls become victims of sexualized violence. We do not tire of denouncing this publicly, and to demand support, security and justice for those concerned, be it in the respective countries or on international stage. We are with the surviving women and girls with all our knowledge and solidarity so that - despite all the destructive violence they had to experience - these women have a chance to live self-determined lives in dignity." -- Monika Hauser