The Goalkeepers’ Push to Accelerate the SDGs

Bill Gates; Progress Award winner, Radhika Batra of India; Campaign Award winner, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda; Changemaker Award winner, Zahra Joya of Afghanistan; and Melinda French Gates at the 2022 Goalkeepers Award in New York

In 2015, about 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development to achieve a better world by 2030. As a catalyst for action toward these goals, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation inaugurated the Goalkeepers who are dedicated to accelerating those Global Goals. This year, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that the Goalkeepers returned to New York at the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly to push for progress toward ending poverty and fighting inequality

At the United Nations headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) otherwise called the Global Goals. That day was September 25, 2015.

Although the commitment was quite audacious and some might even say, too ambitious, but for the world leaders, the objectives were quite clear as the target was to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change, all by 2030.

The Goalkeepers

As part of move to accelerate those goals, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) launched the Goalkeepers. These sets of people are catalysts for action toward the goals.

Essentially, the Goalkeepers are dedicated to accelerating progress toward the Global Goals by using powerful stories, data, and partnerships to highlight progress achieved, and bring together a diverse range of leaders to address the world’s major challenges.

For the foundation, the Goalkeepers are part of their campaign to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals). “By sharing stories and data behind the Global Goals through 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”.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Of course, championing this cause is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For them, they are guided the belief that every life has equal value, thus their push to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.

In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. This they are doing with CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.

Goalkeepers Report
Being one that constantly evaluates what’s done, the Gates Foundation’s recently released its sixth annual Goalkeepers Report, “The Future of Progress”.

Co-authored by foundation co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates, the report underscored opportunities to accelerate progress toward ending poverty, fighting inequality, and reducing the impacts of climate change.

In their respective essays, French Gates and Gates called for new approaches to achieving gender equality and food security. They also cited dramatic progress in dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic—a nearly 60 per cent decline in annual deaths between 2000 and 2020—as an example of what can happen when the world invests in long-term solutions and innovative approaches to entrenched issues.

This year’s report includes best- and worst-case scenarios for ending preventable infectious diseases and malnutrition, improving access to quality education, increasing access to financial services, and achieving gender equality.

“At this historical inflection point, how the world responds to setbacks is a choice that will impact what happens now and for generations to come. Millions of lives hang in the balance,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

“We call on governments, the private sector, civil society, and philanthropic organisations to do more to meet the ambitious goals and to keep investing in new ways of thinking, new tools and data, and proven solutions to ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.”

In her essay, French Gates cited data that shows the world will not reach gender equality until at least 2108—three generations later than previously projected. She calls for approaches that do more than just ensure a woman’s ability to earn a livelihood, but to control it.

“When it comes to the future of progress—not just on the global goals related to gender equality but on those on good health, quality education, ending poverty, and more—there is one engine that can drive them all: women’s power,” French Gates writes.

She highlighted two proven approaches for increasing women’s power in their families and communities: building economic resilience through expanded access to digital financial tools and implementing a robust caregiving infrastructure that enables women to earn an income outside of the home.

In his essay, Gates asserted that hunger cannot be solved solely through humanitarian assistance. He cited recent shocks to the world’s supply of grain from Eastern Europe and the ongoing threat of climate change to underscore the vulnerability and interconnectedness of the global food system.

Honour for 2022 Goalkeepers

At the 2022 Goalkeepers event, the foundation honoured four leaders with the 2022 Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards for their inspiring efforts to drive progress for all.

According to Head of Goalkeepers, Blessing Omakwu, while the world is far from being on track to reach the Global Goals by 2030, “there is still cause for optimism. We’ve seen how human ingenuity and innovation can lead to game-changing breakthroughs and progress toward our shared goals, and that’s exactly what we see in this year’s Goalkeepers Global Goals Award winners.

“Each show us how women are leading the way in coming up with the innovative solutions to move the numbers in the right direction, so that more people can lead healthy and productive lives.”

Hosted by Tumelo Mothotoane, senior anchor at South African news broadcaster eNCA, the event was attended by leaders, influencers, and even changemakers across the globe.

The award presenters included Malala Fund co-founder and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai; and entertainer and founder of Unicorn Island, Lilly Singh. The ceremony featured special performances by George the Poet and Grammy-nominated singer and performer, Somi who thrilled the audience with her range and powerful voice.

For Radhika Batra of India, Zahra Joya of Afghanistan, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, and Ursula von der Leyen of Germany, they were recognised for their extraordinary work towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in their communities and around the world.

Dr. Radhika Batra is co-founder of the nonprofit organisation Every Infant Matters, which provides last-mile health solutions to disadvantaged children in India. She won the 2022 Progress Award for an individual who supports progress via a science, technology, digital, or business initiative.

Through her work, she continues to tackle health inequalities by providing last-mile health solutions to disadvantaged children. Batra is progressing SDG 3, Good Health & Well-Being and SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities.

Batra founded Every Infant Matters when she was working as a resident doctor in a hospital in the slums of New Delhi.

Since launching in 2017, the organisation has saved 74,173 children from blindness; given prenatal vitamins to more than 40,000 disadvantaged women; and provided education to prevent gender inequality and the stigma of TB, HIV/AIDS, and blindness to more than 65,000 families.

The 2022 Changemaker Award was presented to 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.

Presented by Angelina Jolie, the award celebrates an individual who has inspired change using personal experience or from a position of leadership.

Through her work, she is ensuring women’s stories in her home country are reported on and reach the attention of the wider public and through this, she is progressing SDG 5, Gender Equality and SDG 16, Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.

For Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement and the Green Schools Project, she bagged the 2022 Campaign Award for progressing SDG 4 on Education; SDG 5 on Gender Equality; SDG 10 on Reduced Inequalities, and SDG 13 on Climate Action.

Presented by Malala Yousafzai, the change maker was celebrated for building a campaign that has raised awareness or built a community by inspiring action and creating change.

Nakate’s work highlights the disproportionate impacts of climate change, bringing much-needed attention to the inequalities that it exacerbates, especially for women and girls in Africa.

This she has done through the Rise Up Climate Movement, which amplifies the voices of activists from Africa and across the world. Also, through her Green Schools Project, she addresses energy poverty in rural schools in Uganda using economical and sustainable solutions to equip 24,000 schools with solar panels and eco stoves.

Ursula von der Leyen is president of the European Commission who received the 2022 Global Goalkeeper Award for driving progress on a global scale toward achieving the SDGs.

In her capacity, she was awarded for showing determination in leading both the EU and global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from crisis management to long-term recovery efforts.

Identified as a champion of global health and equitable access, von der Leyen was instrumental in the creation of ACT-A, a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

She led the efforts of the European Union to support lower-income countries in responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a commitment of €1 billion from the EU to boost manufacturing capacity in Africa in order to increase access to vaccines, medicines, and health technologies.

In June 2020, at the Global Vaccine Summit, von der Leyen also announced a new European Commission’s contribution of €300 million to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This is more than the sum of all previous EU contributions to Gavi.


Essentially, the Goalkeepers are dedicated to accelerating progress toward the Global Goals by using powerful stories, data, and partnerships to highlight progress achieved, and bring together a diverse range of leaders to address the world’s major challenges

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