Three Young Leaders Honored: “Saving the World is Child’s Play”
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The Goalkeepers campaign's annual awards event took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, US, on 25 September 2018, honoring activists and innovators from Kenya, UK and Iraq.

Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister and co-chair of the SDG Advocates, called for action for the Global Goals, and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed highlighted the march towards gender equality and ending sexual harassment is “one of the loudest cries I’ve heard".

25 September 2018: The Goalkeepers campaign of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation honored “heroes who don’t look like heroes you’ve seen in the past/ heroes who were told they wouldn’t last,” in the words of poet and youth activist Aranya Johar, one of the featured 2018 Goalkeepers.

The awards event took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, US, on 25 September 2018, with the ceremony hosted by Loyiso Madinga, a South African comedian from The Daily Show. Madinga and other speakers emphasized the uniquely important role of young people in solving problems and bringing people together, and of reaching across generations.

Johar’s poem was featured in a film, ‘We the Goalkeepers,’ screened at the start of the awards night. The poem concludes, “Because when you’re too tired of waiting on others/ to save the day/ You stand tall, and show that saving the world/ is child’s play.”

Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Gates Foundation, presented the Goalkeepers 2018 Progress Award to Dysmus Kusilu, founder of Solar Freeze. Kusilu said that growing up in Kenya, he was taught that to work in agriculture is to be a failure. Gaining inspiration from his “sweet grandmother and her sacrifices,” he decided to turn failure into success by inventing a pay-as-you-go service using mobile phones to help smallholder farmers store their produce more efficiently and increase their yields.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the audience of the UN’s launch of two youth initiatives earlier in the day: the Youth 2030 strategy and Generation Unlimited. She said the initiatives will put youth at the forefront of the UN’s work “in a more earnest way” than ever before. Among the areas of leadership shown by young people recently, she said the march towards gender equality and ending sexual harassment is “one of the loudest cries I’ve heard.”

Mohammed presented the Goalkeepers 2018 Changemaker Award to Nadia Murad, an advocate for the Yazidi community and genocide survivors. Murad said that following the 2014 attacks by ISIS to “ethnically cleanse” Iraq of Yazidis – during which Murad was abducted and enslaved – the majority of Yazidi people remain in IDP camps “in the same tents given to them in 2014.” Having lost her six brothers in the genocide and seen countless fellow Yazidi girls and women kidnapped, bought and sold, and disappeared, Murad said her survival “came with purpose, responsibility and hope.” However, hope “has an expiration date; it requires action to survive.” She said working together is the only way to heal after a genocidal campaign.

Henrietta Fore, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, said the Generation Unlimited initiative aims to ensure that by 2030 every young person is in school or age-appropriate training. She presented the Goalkeepers 2018 Campaign Award to Amika George, a student who founded the #FreePeriods campaign and has built support for the idea of period poverty.

When George accepted the award, she told the audience that girls around the world her age and younger miss up to 20% of their school curriculum each year because they cannot afford menstrual products, and she campaigns to provide the products for free. She urged, “enough with the shame” and euphemisms that belittle menstruation, and cause social isolation and educational lags for girls in poverty.

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Gates Foundation, noted that the average age of the leaders, innovators and activists featured during the ceremony was 24 years old. He welcomed Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister, praising her dedication to action for SDG 4 (quality education). Solberg spoke in her capacity as the co-chair of the UN Advocates for the SDGs to stress that “we need business with us” to reach the Goals.

The evening event also featured performances by Ed Sheeran, a singer-songwriter from the UK who performed against a backdrop of footage of himself and other Goalkeepers as babies and children, and Fatoumata Diawara, a singer-songwriter from Mali who was joined by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

Goalkeepers 2018 will hold a day-long event on 26 September 2018, gathering young leaders to discuss innovations and approaches to achieve the SDGs. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Goalkeepers website] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on Goalkeepers 2018 Data Report and survey results]


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