Nigerian NGO wins 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graça Michel Award in mental health

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Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI), a non-governmental organisation, has won the 2017 Nelson Mandela-Graça Michel Innovation Awards in mental health, according to a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

Mr Grant Clark, Senior Media Advisor to 2017 International Civil Society Week, said in the statement issued on on Wednesday that MANI was selected from among 300 nominations across the globe as the winner in the Civil Society Organisation category.

“The awards seek to recognize outstanding bravery and achievement towards social change.

“From humble beginnings, MANI, which promotes mental health awareness in Nigeria, has grown to be the largest and most active mental health NGO.”

He said that former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon praised MANI’s achievement.

“We commend the work of Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative for opening the space to improve the lives of young Nigerians living with mental illness, who are too often stigmatized and the cause of great suffering for many people,” Ban was quoted as saying.

Clark identified other winners as an Egyptian activist and journalist, Khaled Elbalshy; a young Guyanese change-maker, Jubilanté Cutting, and a German philanthropists organisation, Guerrilla Foundation.

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

Machel said at the award presentation that “Awards like this are so significant because the winners truly are ‘sparks of hope’ with the potential to inspire many others.

“It is important that those of us with the freedom to speak out, use our voices to lift up these courageous individuals and organisations.”

Victor Ugo, founder of MANI and himself a medical professional, said: “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.”

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