Robbie Francis Watene
It is an absolute privilege to be named the winner of the Her Abilities Award in Rights for 2020, in fact I feel quite overwhelmed! But it is also important to acknowledge that this honour is not about my work as an individual, but the tireless efforts of a global community who have paved the way for the realisation of my rights as a woman with a disability.
Portrait Photo of Robbie Francis Watene. Credit: Yonel Watene


New Zealand

Short Biography

The winner in Rights 2020 is disability rights advocate and coffee entrepreneur Dr. Robbie Francis Watene from New Zealand.

Dr. Robbie Francis Watene is a leading disability rights activist from Aotearoa New Zealand. Robbie is co-founder and director of The Lucy Foundation (TLF), an international social enterprise which promotes inclusion, access and diversity within the global coffee industry, ensuring disabled coffee producers receive a fair wage. Through the foundation – which is named in honour of Robbie’s prosthetic leg, ‘Lucy Leg’ – she is transforming the global coffee industry through inclusive, ethical and environmentally regenerative trade. Robbie is also New Zealand’s senior researcher monitoring the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in her country.

In 2018, Robbie obtained her doctorate in Peace and Conflict Studies, where she studied inclusive and accessible peace building and the experience of Colombian and Venezuelan refugees with disabilities in Ecuador. She has been a senior advisor and academic to several renowned institutions including the Attitude Charitable Trust, the University of Otago and the Donald Beasley Institute.

Through her advocacy work Dr. Robbie Francis Watene has not only focused on the rights of people with disabilities but also on conflict resolution and the rights of marginalised people.

Robbie was born in 1989. She is an active member of the disability community in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Reason for winning

Her global research and efforts to support people with disabilities who may affected by compounding discrimination (refugees, indigenous communities..) combined with her entrepreneurial work given her young age made for a compelling reason to put her forward in this category.
(Susannah Rodgers - Jury Member)

Nomination Category


Award year