In light of Nelson Mandela Month, Marianna Vardinoyannis of Greece, and Dr Morissanda Kouyaté of Guinea won this year’s Nelson Mandela prize, which is awarded every five years.
The Nelson Mandela prize was established by a UN General Assembly resolution in June 2014 to recognise the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity, by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations, while honouring Nelson Mandela’s life, and legacy of reconciliation, political transition, and social transformation.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, recognized the laureates during a virtual ceremony on 20 July, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection committee receives nominations from a broad variety of sources including UN member atates, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs.
Vardinoyannis has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999. She is the founder and President of two foundations dedicated to children: the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and ELPIDA Friends’ Association of Children with Cancer.She has been involved in the fight against child cancer for over 30 years and, thanks to her work, thousands of children have been saved.
The ELPIDA association was instrumental in setting up the first bone marrow transplant unit in Greece in 1999, and the country’s first oncology hospital for children in 2010. Her foundation also supports programmes for the medical care of refugee children and other vulnerable social groups, human rights education, programmes, and the fight against human trafficking.
Dr Kouyaté is an Executive Director of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC).He is a leading figure in efforts to end violence against women in Africa, including female genital mutilation (FGM). He has received several international humanitarian awards for his work.
He started IAC in 1984 in Dakar, Senegal, at a time when FGM was a highly controversial and sensitive issue for discussion. The organisation aims, through education, to change attitudes towards the practice and allow all African women and children to fully enjoy their human rights, free from the consequences of FGM, and other harmful practices.
IAC has partnered with UN reproductive rights agency (UNFPA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UN children’s’ agency (UNICEF). Muhammad-Bande congratulated Vardinoyannis and Dr Kouyaté, and thanked the selection Committee for its hard work and dedication.