17.01.2022

Melinda Gates on choosing the Gates Foundation’s Annual Goalkeeper Awards Winners

Melinda French Gates has shared the decision-making process behind the selection of this year’s Gates Foundation Annual Goalkeeper Awards Winners, in an exclusive discussion with GLAMOUR.

The Gates Foundation has the simple yet crucial goal of helping all people, all over the world, live healthy, productive lives. Meanwhile, the Gatekeeper Campaign – first established in 2017 – aims to accelerate progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with its annual awards ceremony honouring those who support these aims.

This year, Mlambo-Ngcuka, a former deputy president of South Africa, is the recipient of the 2021 Global Goalkeeper Award, while three other individuals have also been honoured with awards.

Three other awards include the 2021 Progress Award, which went to Jenifer Colpas, co-founder and executive director of Tierra Grata, a social enterprise that develops low-cost, easy-to-install solutions providing access to clean energy, safe water and sanitation services to rural communities in Colombia.

There’s also the 2021 Campaign Award, to Satta Sheriff of Liberia, the founder and executive director of Action for Justice and Human Rights (AJHR); and the 2021 Changemaker Award, which went to Fairooz Faizah Beether, co-founder of the Moner School, a digital platform raising promoting equal access to mental health care across the country.

GLAMOUR caught up with Melinda French Gates to find out more about the purpose behind this year’s campaign, and how the foundation managed to choose this year’s four winners.

They represent such different global issues, why did the Foundation choose these award winners?

These women each represent the power that we, as individuals, have in our local communities to make a difference. When we first started Goalkeepers, we knew we wanted to shine a spotlight on the amazing work happening at the local level to help advance the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Also known as the Global Goals, these 17 goals are the global community’s shared blueprint to achieve a better future by eliminating poverty, ending hunger, ensuring quality education, expanding access to clean water and more. We hope that by recognising these incredible women, we are able to highlight their efforts and inspire others around the world to drive positive change in their own communities.

We chose this year’s winners because of their impactful work over the last year. Each of these women have demonstrated innovative and inclusive leadership in the midst of the pandemic, whether on the topic of mental health, water, sanitation and hygiene, human rights or gender equality. They’ve championed a diverse set of causes, but their work has been courageous, action-oriented and they’ve shown they are optimistic advocates for the Global Goals.

How have disparities and inequalities that existed before the pandemic been emphasised for women and girls due to COVID-19?

Disease outbreaks always impact women disproportionately, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. In this case, men are 70% more likely to die from COVID-19, but it’s women – in high- and low-income countries alike – who continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing economic and social impacts of the pandemic.

Our foundation’s recently released 2021 Goalkeepers Report highlighted some of these disparities.

Globally, women’s employment is likely to remain 13 million jobs below the 2019 level. Meanwhile, for men, employment is largely expected to rebound to pre-pandemic rates. That’s just one way women have borne the worst of this pandemic’s economic crisis.

What are the biggest issues women & girls are currently facing from your perspective and how have these changed?

COVID-19 has really exacerbated the challenges women and girls face around the world. In this crisis, women’s jobs have been twice as vulnerable as men’s. Those who have managed to keep their jobs have faced an additional, unsustainable burden of caring for children who are learning remotely and loved ones sick with COVID-19.

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