By Sharon Atieno

As part of its annual Goalkeepers campaign, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded four leaders for their work in advancing progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their communities and around the world.

These leaders include Radhika Batra, co-founder of the nonprofit organization Every Infant Matters, which provides last-mile health solutions to disadvantaged children in India, Zahra Joya, a journalist from Afghanistan who founded and self-funded Rukhshana Media, an online news agency focused exclusively on covering issues that affect the women of Afghanistan, Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement and the Green Schools Project, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

The Goalkeepers Awards given to the leaders were divided into four categories including the 2022 Global Goalkeeper Award which recognized a leader who has driven progress on a global scale toward achieving the SDGs, the 2022 Changemaker Award which celebrates an individual who has inspired change using personal experience or from a position of leadership, the 2022 Progress Award which celebrates an individual who supports progress via a science, technology, digital, or business initiative and the 2022 Campaign Award,which celebrates a campaign that has raised awareness or built a community by inspiring action and creating change.

“The last time we gathered in person for Goalkeepers, we talked about how the most well-intentioned programs can perpetuate inequities if the communities they want to reach aren’t involved in the design,” Co-chair Melinda French Gates said.

“A lot has changed since 2019, but one thing hasn’t: We won’t make progress toward the Global Goals unless those with lived experiences have a seat at the table. I’m proud of our Goalkeepers Award winners and the many partners from all corners of the world who are working to develop this next generation of leaders.”

The winners were announced at the Goalkeepers Awards Ceremony in New York, which was attended by global leaders, influencers, and changemakers, and hosted by Tumelo Mothotoane, senior anchor at South African news broadcaster eNCA. Award presenters included Malala Fund co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai; and entertainer and founder of Unicorn Island, Lilly Singh.