Modi Gets BMGF Award for India’s Improved Sanitation

  • Foundation calls for elimination of geographic and gender inequalities

Bolaji Adebiyi in New York

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was on Tuesday night presented with the Global Goalkeeper Award by the Belinda & Bill Gates Foundation for the progress India is making in improving sanitation through the Swachh Bharat mission.

Modi was one of the four awardees at the annual Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards held in New York to celebrate outstanding work around the world that is directly linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).

The event that had Bill and Melinda Gates as co-chairs and co-hosts was the fourth since 193 leaders of member-countries of the United Nations agreed to a 17-point Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-Global Goals) in 2015, which they believed would assure world peace and development.

Another Indian, Payal Jangid, a youth activist, got the Changemaker Award for her fight against child labour 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. The Campaign Award was presented to Aya Chebbi, the first African Union Youth Envoy, for her work in promoting youth empowerment, peacebuilding, and non-violent mobilisation in Africa.

“Before the Swachh Bharat mission, over 500 million people in India did not have access to safe sanitation, and now, the majority do,” the foundation said of Modi’s magnificent efforts at cleaning up the dirt in the populous Asian and the biggest democratic country in the world.

The UN leaders had on September 25, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters in New York committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals), a series of ambitious objectives and targets to achieve three extraordinary things by 2030: end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

To track accelerate progress towards the attainment of the goals, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had set up a campaign tagged “Goalkeepers.”

“By sharing stories and data behind the Global Goals through events and an annual report, we hope to inspire a new generation of leaders—Goalkeepers who raise awareness of progress, hold their leaders accountable, and drive action to achieve the Global Goals,” the foundation said.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.

In the United States, for instance, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

The foundation publishes its report annually to highlight progress being made towards the SDGs.

This year’s Goalkeepers focused on the challenge of fighting global inequality to ensure no one is left behind.

In previous years, speakers at Goalkeepers have included US President Barack Obama, President Emmanuel Macron, and Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed; Nobel Peace Prize winners and inspiring young leaders such as Malala Yousafzai, Nadia Murad, and Trevor Noah; and musical performers Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, and Fatoumata Diawara.

The foundation had on September 17, 2019 launched its third annual Goalkeepers Data Report, which features new data showing that while progress on health and development continues unabated, global inequality remains a major barrier to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals).

The report said even in the worst-off parts of low- and low-middle-income countries, more than 99 percent of communities have seen an improvement in child mortality and schooling, adding that despite this progress, persistent gaps in opportunity mean that nearly half a billion people—about one in 15—still do not have access to basic health and education.

“Gaps between countries, districts, and boys and girls prove that the world’s investments in development aren’t reaching everyone. Using new sub-national data,” it said, adding that it uncovered the vast inequalities within countries that were masked by averages.

The report found that where you’re born is still the biggest predictor of your future, and no matter where you’re born, life is harder if you’re a girl.

It said despite gains in female educational attainment, opportunities for girls are limited by social norms, discriminatory laws and policies, and gender-based violence.

“As we write, billions of people are projected to miss the targets that we all agreed represent a decent life,” Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in the Goalkeepers Data Report, “Examining Inequality 2019,” which they co-authored. “We believe that seeing where the world is succeeding will inspire leaders to do more, and seeing where the world is falling short will focus their attention.”

To address persistent inequality, Bill and Melinda Gates, according to the report call for a new approach to development, targeting the poorest people in the countries and districts that need to make up the most ground.

Governments, they said, should prioritize primary health care to deliver a health system that works for the poorest, digital governance to ensure that governments are responsive to their least-empowered citizens, and more support for farmers to help them adapt to climate change’s worst effects.

The plan of Bill and Melinda Gates, it explains, is to produce a Goalkeepers Data Report every year through 2030, timing it to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly.

The report that is designed to track progress in achieving the Global Goals, it says, would continue to highlight examples of success, and inspire leaders around the world to accelerate their efforts.

According to it, both expect this would identify both what’s working and what is falling short.

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