From tackling maternal mortality in Cameroon to fighting food insecurity in the U.S., these "Goalkeepers" are making their mark on global development goals.
The past two centuries have seen humanity transform into a truly interconnected global community. Like any community, we have our virtues and strengths as well as our challenges that require collective effort to overcome.
The United Nations created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to help us focus our efforts on vital areas of concern, including poverty, gender equality, education, food security, health, climate and more. And every year since then, changemakers have arisen to meet those goals in various ways. Some of these changemakers are already leaders on the world stage, from heads of state to global celebrities. But others are grassroots activists doing incredible work on the ground to move us toward meeting our SDG targets by the 2030 deadline.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation calls these people Goalkeepers and honors them at an awards ceremony each year. This year's young activist Goalkeepers hail from Cameroon, Ethiopia and the United States, and their work on different goals in different countries is an inspiring example of how any one of us can arise and be of service to humanity no matter where we live.
Meet this year's award recipients:
Ashu Martha Agbornyenty was named the 2023 Changemaker at the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards.
Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images for Gates Archive
2023 Changemaker Award: Ashu Martha Agbornyenty
The Changemaker Award celebrates an individual who has inspired change either from a position of leadership or through personal experience. Ashu Martha Agbornyenty is a midwife dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safer in Cameroon, where maternal mortality rates are high. She writes about the work of midwives and shares her knowledge of pregnancy through her blog, Marthie’s Midwifery Diary, and she also founded the For Mom & Baby Foundation, which provides community workshops and distributes emergency kits containing essential birth supplies to pregnant women in crisis-stricken areas. Since 2021, the foundation has distributed over 1,000 emergency kits and reached more than 2,400 women and girls in the region.
"Midwives are essential to achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including Goal 3: Good health and well-being for all. They provide care to millions of women and children around the world, and they play a vital role in improving maternal and child health outcomes," Agbornyenty shared on her Facebook page.
However, she added, "Despite their important role, midwives are often underrepresented in policy-making circles. This is a problem because it means that the voices of midwives and the people they serve are not being heard when important decisions are being made about maternal and child health." She dedicated her award to all midwives. Learn more about her work here.
Eden Tadesse speaks at the 2023 Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards.
Photo by Mike Lawerence/Getty Images for Gates Archive
2023 Progress Award: Eden Tadesse
The Progress Award celebrates an individual who supports progress via a science, technology, digital, or business initiative. This year's award was presented to Eden Tadesse, an Ethiopian journalist, social entrepreneur, digital innovator, and human rights activist dedicated to helping refugees thrive. Tadesse founded the online global impact platform Invicta, which promotes digital financial inclusion, skills development and access to job opportunities for urban refugees. More than 35,000 people from 90 countries have registered on Invicta, 7,000 have completed online courses and more than 2,200 refugees have employment through the platform.
According to the UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, 108.4 million people worldwide are currently forcibly displaced, and the majority of refugees are hosted by low-income countries. Refugees often face a mountain of obstacles as they resettle away from their countries of origin, from legal hurdles to access to education to finding work to prejudice and discrimination.
"I imagine a world where every refugee in every part of the world leads a meaningful, dignified life where they are economically empowered, safe and self-reliant," Tadesse says. Invicta is a one-stop tool for refugees to get connected with the educational, financial, mental health and other tools they need. Learn more about Invicta here.
The founders of The Farmlink Project, Ben Collier, James Kanoff and Aiden Reilly with Sabrina Elba at the 2023 Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards
Photo by Chris Farber/Getty Images for Gates Archive
2023 Campaign Award: The Farmlink Project
The Campaign Award celebrates a campaign that has raised awareness or built a community by inspiring action and creating change. This year's Campaign Award was presented to The Farmlink Project, founded by Aidan Reilly, Ben Collier, and James Kanoff, for its work advocating for and building community around food equity in the United States.
The Farmlink Project was started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its purpose is to connect people experiencing food insecurity with surplus produce that will otherwise go to waste.
"No one should have to go to bed hungry while perfectly viable produce goes to waste. This produce shouldn’t have to be 'rescued' from rotting in fields or being sent to the landfill, either; why were we ever letting this produce go to waste in the first place?" asks The Farmlink Project. "These are systemic issues that our society needs to address."
In a perfect world, The Farmlink Project says, their organization wouldn’t need to exist because "systems would be in place to streamline the supply chain so that zero percent, rather than 30 to 40 percent, of food grown in the United States went to waste." For now, though, it acts as a “link” connecting the broken supply chains.
"Our long-term goal is to set up infrastructure which will render our work obsolete," the organization shares on its website. "If there were no food waste, if there were no hungry people lining up outside understocked and underfunded food banks, there would be no need for The Farmlink Project. That’s the dream. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get there, though. We need you to help us put ourselves out of business."
Through its network of more than 600 student fellows and 6,000 volunteers, The Farmlink Project has provided 83 million meals and transferred more than 130 million pounds of nutritious food to communities facing hunger. Learn more here.
We are at the halfway mark toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal deadline. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but if leaders like these Goalkeepers can inspire more of us to action, we'll be that much closer to reaching our collective targets for a more sustainable global society.