Phyllis Omido receives Right Livelihood Award for protecting East African communities’ environmental and land rights

STOCKHOLM – Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan environmental activist, is among the recipients of this year’s Right Livelihood Award for her pioneering efforts in championing the environmental and land rights of local communities while setting vital precedents in environmental law.

For over 40 years, the Right Livelihood Award has honoured and supported courageous people solving global problems. To date, 194 Laureates from 76 countries have received the Award, including Ukrainian human rights defender Oleksandra Matviichuk, Congolese gynaecologist and women’s rights advocate Dr Denis Mukwege and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Omido, known as “Mama Moshi” or the “Mother against Smoke” by the communities she engages with, became an environmental activist after working at a battery smelting plant that poisoned her, her son and the Owino Uhuru community. Her advocacy has led to the plant and sixteen others being closed across Kenya. Omido’s use of litigation, advocacy and media engagement in the smelting plant case has set vital legal precedents, affirming people’s right to a clean and healthy environment and the state’s responsibility to safeguard it.

Today, her activism goes far beyond Owino Uhuru. Empowering others to protect their communities, Omido leads a network of 120 grassroots Land and Environmental Defenders across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. She is currently spearheading a campaign against Kenya’s plan to develop nuclear power in Kilifi, a pristine oceanside district known for its coral reefs, fishing villages and rich wildlife.

“We need to look a the livelihoods of the fishermen and the women who are depending on carbon credits from the mangroves in that area,” said Omido. “Kenya has the capacity for renewables – we have sunshine every day of the year. There is no excuse as to why we should go into something that is going to harm the environment.”

Right Livelihood’s jury said that Omido was receiving the Award “for her groundbreaking struggle to secure land and environmental rights for local communities while advancing the field of environmental law.”

“It’s a time when communities are feeling dejected – a time when they are looking to me to give them hope,” said Omido. “This Award will give them hope that their struggle is not unique to them, they are global struggles. There are people around the world watching the work that we are doing, and they are supporting it.”

Omido is holding an online press conference today, Thursday, September 28, at 11:30 CEST. Register here.

“Seeing the suffering of her own family and the local community, Phyllis Omido has raised her voice against crooked industrial practices that are poisoning people in Kenya,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director at Right Livelihood.

“Mobilising communities and demanding answers from the government, she has successfully shown the connection between damaging projects and local residents’ health, empowering people to take responsibility for their environment and fight for their rights.”

The other 2023 Right Livelihood Laureates are:

Register for the press conferences here.

The 2023 Laureates will be honoured during a televised Award Presentation in Stockholm on Wednesday, November 29.

Find more information about the Laureates here.

Photos and videos of the new Laureates can be found here.

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About Right Livelihood

For over 40 years, Right Livelihood has honoured and supported courageous people solving global problems. Housed under the umbrella of a foundation, Right Livelihood is a courage-powered community for social change committed to peace, justice and sustainability for all.

Each year, Right Livelihood highlights change-makers through an Award. To date, 194 Laureates from 76 countries have received the distinction. By recognising the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, Right Livelihood boosts urgent and long-term social change.

The Award was founded in 1980 following the Nobel Foundation’s rejection of a proposal to create two new prizes to honour individuals committed to advancing social justice and environmental causes, especially highlighting change-makers from the Global South.

Today, the work of Right Livelihood goes beyond presenting the Award: the Foundation provides Laureates with life-long support. Right Livelihood is a megaphone and a shield: raising their profile, providing protection when their lives and liberty are in danger, and educating people on their innovative solutions.

Right Livelihood is headquartered in Stockholm, with an office in Geneva. The Foundation has Consultative Status with the UN.