Guo Jianmei doing field research in Guangxi. Photo: Qianqian Law Firm

Chinese lawyer Guo Jianmei announced 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate

Press releases 25.09.2019

The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Lawyer Guo Jianmei from China is one of the 2019 Laureates, the Right Livelihood Foundation announced today in Stockholm, Sweden.

Guo Jianmei is one of the most distinguished lawyers in the field of women’s rights in China. Throughout her career, she has helped thousands of disadvantaged women in getting access to justice. She is recognised by the international jury “for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China”.

Upon receiving the news, Guo Jianmei commented:

“This award recognises 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. 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 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureates were announced during a press conference at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The jury has selected four Laureates who will each receive 1 million SEK (94,000 EUR). The prize money is designated to support the Laureates’ work, it is not for personal use.

The other Laureates are the humans rights defender Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara), the climate activist Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and the indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa who jointly receives the award with the Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil). The international jury considered 142 nominations from 59 countries, after an open nomination process.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, commented: “Guo Jianmei is a pioneer of women’s rights. She has provided legal support to thousands of Chinese women and demonstrated how the law can be used to successfully fight gender discrimination.”

Guo Jianmei consistently addresses gender bias in the justice system and helps raise gender awareness in China, a country with around 650 million women. She has founded and directed one of the most impactful non-government organisations for the protection of women’s rights. As China’s first public interest lawyer dedicated to providing legal aid on a full-time basis, Guo successfully introduced the concept of pro bono legal services for marginalised persons into the Chinese context. Since 1995, she and her team of lawyers have offered free legal counselling to more than 120,000 women all over China and have been involved in more than 4000 lawsuits to enforce women’s rights and advance gender equality.

Guo Jianmei’s work shines a spotlight on the state of women’s rights in China, where one in four married women has experienced some form of domestic violence at the hands of a husband, and gender discrimination at the workplace is rampant. Guo guides women through lawsuits and carries out legal advocacy at a national level on issues like unequal pay, sexual harassment, work contracts that prohibit pregnancies and forced early retirement without compensation. In rural China, where patriarchal attitudes are still deeply rooted, Guo provides legal support for women who have been denied their land rights. In 2005, she created the China Public Interest Lawyers Network that gathers more than 600 not-for-profit lawyers who can take up cases even in remote regions of China. Together with colleagues, she also provided a vast number of legal comments and research that led to the refinement and improvement of relevant laws and regulations. In the face of a dramatically shrinking space for civil society in China, Guo Jianmei has shown courage and extraordinary resilience. Her work continues to impact the lives of millions of Chinese women.

Gou Jianmei will receive her prize at the 2019 Right Livelihood Award Celebration in Stockholm on 4 December. As the Award celebrates 40 years, the public is for the first time ever invited to participate in its presentation. Edward Snowden, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, will join the celebration via link from Moscow and the artists José González and Ane Brun will perform at the event. Tickets for the Award Celebration are available via Cirkus.se

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