The Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi has won the Global Goalkeeper Award for realising the 100-year-old dream of Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of the nation.
Modi, in less than five years, led a mission known as Swachh Bharat Mission, which ensured that 600 million people stopped open defecation in one of the world’s most populous nation.
During his lifetime, Gandhi, led the successful campaign for India’s independence from British Rule, but believed “sanitation is more important than political independence”.
He dreamt of a neat and clean India, which Modi committed to achieving.
In 2014, Modi committed to an ambitious goal of making India open defecation-free (ODF) by Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday on October 2, 2019 — a feat the Gates Foundation said was achieved.
Speaking about the award, Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said: “Managing human waste is one of the world’s oldest and toughest challenges and I will say most leaders are not willing to talk about it, in part because the solutions aren’t that easy, but we do have to talk about it”.
“We hear a lot about malaria and we should, because it’s devastating and we are making progress. But sanitation-related illnesses kill more kids every year than malaria does.
“In 2014, prime minister Narendra Modi announced the Swachh Bharat Mission, a programme with the very ambitious goal of eliminating open defecation in India.
“Before the project, the government that more than half a billion people were defecating in the open, but today, just five years later, thanks to the leadership of hundreds of thousands of people in communities across India, the vast majority now have access to safe sanitation.
“This progress is critical to achieving SDG 6 for water and sanitation, which is lagging far behind.”
Gates said India is already serving as a model for other countries around the world.
The Campaign Award was presented to Aya Chebbi, the first African Union Youth Envoy, for her work promoting youth empowerment, peacebuilding, and non-violent mobilization in Africa.
While receiving the award, Chebbi said: “We live in a world where politicians fuel xenophobia and violence and violate national and international laws, and even censor the only space we have to breathe, the internet.”
“We live in a world where it has become acceptable to trade human rights for sanitary projects; the reality we live in is dangerous. But you know what, a wise man told me the power of the people will always be more powerful than people in power.
“When young people promise, young people deliver; the world we want is borderless and the future we want is about dignity and freedom, and our generation will continue to be radical, disruptive and challenge the status quo.”
The Changemaker Award was presented to youth activist Payal Jangid for her fight against child labor 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.