It was a glittering celebration on Tuesday at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation celebrated three young change-makers who have made positive impacts on the lives of people in their society.
The three individuals were presented with the goalkeeper awards. They were recognized for their work toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The annual goalkeepers awards, in five categories, are presented to leaders and individuals for their efforts in achieving the SDGs.
The categories are the progress, changemaker, campaign, global voice, and the global goalkeeper.
The Changemakers award was presented to youth activist Payal Jangid for her fight against child labour and child marriage in India.
The Progress award was presented to Gregory Rockson, co-founder and CEO of mPharma, for his work to increase access to high-quality drugs across community pharmacies in five African countries.
The Campaign Award was presented to Aya Chebbi, the first African Union Youth Envoy, for her work promoting youth empowerment, peacebuilding, and non-violent mobilisation in Africa.
Also on the sideline, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was presented with Global Goalkeeper Award for the progress India is making in improving sanitation through the Swachh Bharat mission.
The 2019 Goalkeepers Global Awards is an annual event to celebrate outstanding work around the world that is directly linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).
This year’s award is the fourth edition and it is being co-hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The event had in attendance people from all around the world. Some of the dignitaries present included the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed; Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore; British screenwriter, producer, and film director, Richard Curtis, among others.
Speaking while receiving her award, Payal Jangid expressed her appreciation at being at the event.
Ms Jangid is a Pakistani who started a movement in her country against child marriage after she had refused to be a child bride.
She called for quality education for the girl child and spoke against child marriage.
Ms Jangid said her thoughts are with people in places where people are forced into marriage and in places where wars are being fought.
“To eradicate child marriage, I work from the root as I stopped my child marriage and today no child marriage is happening in my village. We spent hours and time to educate elders on the harm of child marriage.
“I urge all of you to stand and fight for child right. Whatever we do today will impact the next generation. Every child is a goalkeeper if given a chance,” she said.
The recipient of the campaign award, Aya Chebbi, a 31-year-old Tunisian activist and filmmaker, is also the founder of the Africa Youth Movement.
Ms Chebbi said she “joined the campaign because people think for us (youth) as if we do not have a voice; think for us as if we don’t have a choice, brains and even dare to as if we do not have a world.
“Change will come from the people because the power belongs to the people and the youth.”
Ms Chebbi, who is currently Africa Union’s youngest ambassador, said she champions all SDGs but works more on Goal 17. She said what is important for her is that people have an identity, speak up and know what is right.
She called on the youth to continually ask questions from their leaders and strive to make a difference in the world.
“We live in a world where politicians fuel xenophobia and violence. It has become acceptable to trade human rights for solitary projects The reality we live in is dangerous because our global leaders overlook it, perpetrate it, and even remain silent in front of injustice,” she said.
The recipient of the progress award, a Ghanaian, Gregory Rockson, is the CEO MPharma, a network aimed at making medication affordable and available for end-users in Africa.
He said “I believe a world where a mother has to choose between medication for her health and her child’s education is not a just world.”
“We want every African patient to be able to get access to the medicine they need, irrespective of their socio-economic background.” he said.
Also at the event, Mr Gates, despite protests from Nobel Peace Prize winners and human rights advocates, presented Mr Modi an award of the global goalkeeper for building 100 million toilets across India.
Human rights activists have been criticising the choice of giving Mr Modi the global goalkeeper award because of his track record of extreme Hindu nationalism policies that target minorities in India.
However, Mr Gates said managing human waste is one of the greatest challenges and many people are not willing to talk about it.
He said sanitation, which is part of SDG 6, needs to be addressed as many people are still living without proper sanitation.
Mr Modi was presented an award for building toilets known as Swachh Bharat towards elimination of open defecation in India.
India according to global statistics of open defecation has the highest incidence. Many women and girls in India have been raped and killed while going out in the dusk to defecate.
Mr Gates said the toilets initiative has helped with sanitation revolution and impacted on the health of children in the country.
The Prime Minister appreciated the honor and said it is all for Indians.
He praised the couple for their humanitarian interventions across the world.
Speaking on the toilet initiative, Mr Modi said “the best testimony is that if the voice of many can come together to talk, any goal can be achieved.”
“What is important for me is 1.3 billion Indians coming together to make their country clean. I dedicate this award to all Indians who are part of the movement to transform India’s sanitation and donated to build toilets in their villages or homes.”
He said though the movement was started by the government, it was the people who took it up and made it work.
He said those who have benefited most are the poor, children and women.
Mr Modi added that it is only those who have experienced the challenges that can understand what it means to live in homes without toilets.
He said the clean India campaign has made the lives of many Indians better.
He also added that the initiative has created more jobs.
“India is ready to partner with other countries to share their success measure,” he said.