A teenager who faced down the Taliban and has become a world symbol for universal education, a mayor who acted boldly on sustainability and public health, entrepreneurs who believe that purpose is as important as profit, a baker who has conceived a recipe for improving people’s lives, a pastor who shepherded a war torn country to peace, and an innovator who brought power, water and hope to rural villages were honored at the 7th annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards.
In what has become a tradition of the Clinton Global Initiative, seven were honored with 2013 Clinton Global Citizen Awards: 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who, after being shot by the Taliban less than a year ago for her outspoken support for girls’ education, co-founded the Malala Fund to continue advocating for universal access to education; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his contributions to environmental sustainability and public health, and for leading New York City’s response to Hurricane Sandy.
Also Jessamyn Rodriguez, a New York City Baker who has conceived a recipe for improving people’s lives by founding and leading Hot Bread Kitchen dedicated to training immigrant women for positions in the culinary industry; Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan for their innovation in creating a company dedicated to sustainable personal and home care products; Bunker Roy “who brought power, water and most of all hope” to rural villages by training illiterate grandmothers into becoming ‘solar engineers’ in dozens of countries through his founding and leadership of the Barefoot College; and Bishop Elias Taban, a former child soldier who became “a Pastor who shepherded his war torn country to peace” in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.
“There is no greater title in a democracy than ‘citizen,’ said Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “What does it mean to be a ‘global citizen’ in world increasingly interdependent? At heart it is a deep respect for common humanity, ‘We are all in this together'”
Leadership in Civil Society: Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai, an educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, came into the public eye by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. Under the pen name Gul Makai, Yousafzai often discussed her family’s fight for girls’ education in her community. In October 2012, Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She miraculously survived and continues her campaign for education. In recognition of her courage and advocacy, Yousafzai was honored with the National Peace Prize in Pakistan in 2011 and nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize. She is the youngest person to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, She continues to champion universal access to education through The Malala Fund, a nonprofit organization investing in community-based education programs in disadvantaged communities.
“She talks in soft tones, and is only 5 feet tall, a giant among us,” Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan said in introducing Malala. “The Taliban shot her in the head. After the shooting, the Taliban said, ‘Let this be a lesson.’
It was “a lesson in one girl’s will to survive. A lesson to make a mission to get children- especially girls – to school. A lesson that it is a right to learn for every child. A lesson in how one person, one young girl can inspire a global movement…
“A global citizen isrespectful, tolerant, passionate. Malala forgave the Taliban who shot her with grace, dignity. A powerful example.”
Everyone rose to their feet as Malala came to the stage.
“I’m one of those children who has seen terrorism, poverty, injustice and inequality. Four years ago we saw the barbarism of the 21st century…. Where innocent people were slaughtered every night in the squares. Where girls were stopped from going to school and women were banned to go market. Where more than 400 schools were targeted. At that time, we raised our voice… We said that in this modern era, even disabled and special children are educated but on the other hand, we women and girls are forced and pushed back to the Stone Age.
“We raised our voice for the education of every child. And now…. it’s like a paradise on earth. Now schools are reopened and many girls are going back to school. But still….
“Because not only terrorism blocks the way to education, there are many more difficulties the children and especially girls are facing. Child labor, child trafficking, poverty, inequality…and cultural taboos.
“People of Syria are bombed and children cannot go to school . Children of Pakistan and Afghanistan are targets of terrorism. “Children of Kenya are suffering from child labor. In many African countries, children have no access to food and clean water. They are starving for education.
“In many countries, like Nigeria, girls are suffering from early forced marriages and are victims of sexual violence. Women are not even accepted as human beings. They are treated with injustice and inequality. Women are denied, they are neglected even in developed countries, where they are not given the opportunity to move forward and be what they want.
“Even in America, even in America, people are waiting for a woman president,” she said, as cheers erupted.
“I know the issues are complex and enormous. But the solution is one and simple: education, education, education. We can fight all these hardships and lead to equality in education for both boys and girls.”
She added, “and I hope that governments and all responsible people would realize that we cannot end war with a war. We can fight war through dialogue, peace and education.
“We ask governments and responsible people, if you want peace in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, if you want to end war, instead of sending guns, send books; instead of sending tanks, send pens; instead of sending soldiers, send teachers…Fight terrorism through education.
“And let me remind you that one book, one pen, and one teacher can change the world.”
Leadership in Public Service: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
Michael R. Bloomberg was elected the 108th Mayor of the City of New York in 2001. He began his career in 1966 at Salomon Brothers, and after being let go in 1981, he began Bloomberg LP, a start-up technology, financial news and information company that now has more than 15,000 employees around the world.
As Mayor, Bloomberg has cut crime by more 30 percent, revitalized the waterfront, implemented ambitious public health strategies, including the successful ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, and expanded support for arts and culture. His education reforms have driven graduation rates up by nearly 40 percent since 2005. The Mayor’s economic policies are credited with helping New York City avoid the level of job losses that many other cities experienced during the national recession. In fact, New York City has gained back more than 300 percent of the jobs lost during the national recession, and even surpassed the previous record for the number of private sector jobs, which had been set in 1969.
“The mayor of global city understands like few do that issues he tackles here in New York have global consequence- particularly on the environment,” Vice President Joe Biden, introducing Mayor Bloomberg, said.
Mayor Bloomberg founded C40, a network of the world’s megacities taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which merged with Clinton Climate Initiative. Policy changes in New York such as building codes, traffic, and building parks along the city’s waterfront have resulted in a 30 percent drop in carbon emissions, ahead of the Mayor’s target date of 2017.
Shifting topics, the Vice President took “a point of personal privilege,” in praising Bloomberg for his action against gun violence. Betraying his frustration at the failure of Congress to adopt background checks and closing loopholes, he quoted President Obama’s speech in the memorial for the recent massacre in Washington DC saying, “‘Change won’t come from Washington. Change will come to Washington’ and when it does, it will be because Mike has sent it… I never met a man as committed and passionate to one of serious social issues of the ay – knows we can only bring sanity to issue when come together and demand it – why working so hard – most fierce, effective advocate… publicly thank you for your efforts.”
He praised Bloomberg for being forward looking – not just rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy’s devastation,
“While others focused on how to restore what had been lost, Mike talked about how to rebuild in a way that future Sandys wouldn’t have same impact, to build in a different way in which to deal with an increasingly common phenomenon.”
He took action to green the city – reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% – helping the city be healthier, banning smoking, reducing teen smoking, reducing obesity.
“He transformed the city into a global leader,” and left a lasting legacy.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Bloomberg reflected on political leadership in face of unpopular actions in a CGI session on “Building Resilient Cities and Coasts”:
“The next disaster won’t be the last disaster, no matter what you think about, plan for, that’s not going to be what we face.
“The problem with public investment is that the payoff is down the road, we live more and more in a ‘need it now’ world…. I want to make investments for our children….
“The pace of the world is increasing – we are running out of natural resources, running out of water. The pace we are depleting resources, the ability to damage the atmosphere keeps growing, the danger you can do with one piece of code or a small bomb dwarfs anything this world has had to deal with before, and requirement s to compete in world and deal with next iteration of progress creates more academic demands….
“I care about what historians say, not what journalists say. The same journalist who criticizes the Nanny State – a nasty editors’ column about how terrible the smoking ban was – today says I saved his life. Leadership is about doing what you think is right, making it work, and convincing people to come along, not about doing a poll and doing what public wants. We need innovators, people willing to take risks.
“One of the dangers is social media – it sounds great where everybody can make their opinions known, but it is hard to innovate when you have to face critics before you have the plan – know what it will look like, cost, who will use – hat is what innovation is about. All of a sudden, one kid with computer sends 10,000 messages to senator ‘this is wrong’ and doesn’t realize same person.”
Leadership in the Private Sector Award: Jessamyn W. Rodriguez
Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of the award-winning Hot Bread Kitchen—a nonprofit bakery often referred to as the “United Nations of Bread.” Since 2008, Rodriguez has grown the organization from a visionary idea to a thriving workforce development program that blends business and social outcomes.
Hot Bread Kitchen has become a nationally recognized brand that is sold in over 50 outlets, including Wholefoods and Dean and Deluca, and its business model has been recognized by Echoing Green, the Eileen Fisher Company, and the Social Venture Network’s Innovator Award.
Before starting Hot Bread Kitchen, Rodriguez worked around the world in NGOs, government, and the United Nations, focusing on human rights, education, and immigration issues. She was the first woman to be hired as a baker at Chef Daniel Boulud’s renowned restaurant Daniel.
Rodriguez, who is pregnant, accepted her award joking, “I know what you are thinking, a baker with a real hot bun in the oven.
“I truly take inspiration from CGI’s willingness to think outside the box, and conceive an award that honors businesses and civil society, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders to solve problems we’re all facing – congratulate the other honorees – across all levels and sectors inspire our humble efforts.
At first glance, Hot Bread Kitchen is like other bakeries, but dig deeper – it is a workforce development agency for minority and low income women, producing a line of breads inspired by the countries they come from. The bread that is sold pays for training – in English, computer classes, all the skills to get management track positions in culinary or start own food business.
“I launched five years ago in my own kitchen – the idea was to create stable jobs for immigrant women who otherwise faced work and exploitation. I was ultimately interested in proving the market can be a powerful mode of social change, and also wanted to ‘breaducate’ New Yorkers and those in United States about the contributions of the immigrant community and the tasty products of the cultures they came from.
“Tonight’s award is proof those efforts have paid off – our breads are sold throughout country. …Women from 17 countries educate consumers by the inspiring breads we bake 24/7… They come to work and get paid, take English classes, learn key management skills and math to become culinary leaders…. We have baked nearly 1 million kilos of bread – from Iran to Poland to Mexico – lots of dough – we are changing the face of the industry. Last year only 500 out of 6000 bakers in New York City were minority women – these are good jobs – so we are filling them with qualified women in a thriving culinary industry.
“I dedicate this award to my colleagues in East Harlem baking and creating social change, and dedicate it to all the women and men who bake bread that nourish our bodies and provide fuel for social change, and dedicate this award to all of you who bake social change into the work you do every day.”
Leadership in the Private Sector: Adam Lowry
In 2000, Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan co-founded Method Products, innovator in stylish and sustainable personal and home care products that are non-toxic and good for the planet. Today, Method has over 100 planet-friendly products in stores across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Method has been ranked #7 on the Inc 500, and #16 on Fast Company’s list of the world’s 50 most innovative companies. As chief greenskeeper at Method, Lowry focuses on bringing sustainable innovations to the Method business through product design, sourcing, production, and marketing. Ryan is the design and marketing side of the duo, working as chief brand architect to leverage Method’s creativity to create a new generation of environmentally-conscious consumers. He has been named an eco-leader by Vanity Fair, a Food & Wine Tastemaker, an eco-revolutionary by Time Magazine, and PETA’s Person of the Year. Lowry and Ryan both reside in San Francisco, California.
“In ancient Iraq, the formula for detergent was found on a stone. In ancient Rome, used soap, but not recommended for men, said M. Sanjayan, lead scientist of The Nature Conservancy, in introducing them. “Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan reinvented something we take for granted. They reinvented something as old as civilization…. Their guiding principles: it had to work, be good to the planet, and minimize waste.”
Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan started Method Products 13 years ago “based on belief that business the most powerful institution on planet could be force for environmental good – our big vision started small. Mixing products in dirty apartment in San Francisco and selling door to door – an ironic place for cleaning products,” Ryan joked.
“A vision of redesigning a product resulted in redesigning business itself – realigning with interests of society and environment. The bigger we get, the more good we do.
“We hope the legacy we leave behind is not just better smelling hands, but to inspire new generation of entrepreneurs who believe purpose and profits are not mutually exclusive.
“Our original business plan was: don’t just start a business, start a cause,” Lowry said. “We didn’t just want to be soap vendors. ‘Dirty’ is not just a matter of clean,’ dirty’ is in cleaning products, even products, why use poison to make our homes. To us, success is a world where chemicals don’t turn up in breast milk, where guinea pigs are never used as guinea pigs.
“Ask better questions. Ask for greater transparency, what should be and shouldn’t be in our products. Let’s prove that small everyday choices can lead to big changes,” Eric Ryan said. “Help us fight dirty.”
Leadership in Civil Society: Bunker Roy
Bunker Roy is the founder of the Barefoot College, which has been providing solutions to problems in rural communities for more than 40 years. The Barefoot Approach is a proven community-based model, providing basic infrastructure for power and water in remote, rural areas, as part of an integrated solution to alleviating global poverty. The Barefoot model of community-owned, managed, and financially sustained household solar light systems is today replicated in more than 54 countries, empowering more than 600 Women Barefoot Solar Engineers and providing clean energy access to 450,000 people in nearly 1,650 communities throughout India, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific, and Asia.
As a result of Barefoot’s work, one million liters of rainwater have been harvested to provide clean drinking water to over 239,000 school children in more than 1,300 communities worldwide. Roy has been named one of the 50 environmentalists who could save the planet by the Guardian and one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
Bunker Roy’s innovation is a college without classrooms, where he takes women to be trained as “solar engineers.” Women who had never left their village in their lives, are flown to India where they spend six months in training, using sign language, because they all speak different languages and do not read or write.
“Go over the world, in very remote village of India or world, and you will find very old people and very young people – the men have left the villages. So how is that the Barefoot College model has worked? There were two idea I put into practice to make it work – the first idea: men are untrainable, men are restless, are compulsively mobile, ambitious, and they all want a certificate, and the moment you give a man a certificate in village, he leaves for job in city, so that is why we came up with simple commonsensical solution of training grandmothers – compassionate, tolerant, willing to learn, has patience, all the qualities you need.
“The second idea: not to give a certificate to anybody. The moment you give a certificate, it’s a passport for leaving the rural areas to go to the city for a job. Certification should be done by the community you serve, not by a college.. If a woman, illiterate, who never left her village in her life, can solar electrify a village, do you need a paper on the wall? None of the women we have trained all over the world have asked for certificate.
“Please remember that this woman has never left her village in her life, hates the idea of leaving her family. You drag those women screaming onto the plane – when they reach India after 19 hours, the first time on plane, they can’t speak language for 6 months, eat strange food, are among strange people, and can’t read and write, and yet, in six months, they know more about solar engineering than someone who graduates after five years of university. We use sign language – only sign language – to train to be engineers.
“They have had problems. In most of these traditional societies, the husband says ‘If you go, don’t come back, I’ll take another wife.’ She goes, comes back, solar electrifies her village and the husband says ‘Please come back’ – the respect they have is enormous.
“And she says, ‘No, I’m all right, I’m okay. I have so many offers, but for the first time, I’m independent, I’ve done something extraordinary.” And these 900 solar engineers are the only solar engineers on whole continent of Africa including men. These women become a role model, change a lifetime, change a mindset.”
He tells of a woman from Afghanistan who returned to her village as a solar engineer and instead of going off and sitting with the women, quietly sat with the men. ‘What are you doing?’ they ask. She replies. ‘Today I am not a woman, I’m an engineer.'”
He said, “I have a dream, I have a dream that I would like to cover all the 47 least developed countries identified with UN, with grandmothers, solar electrify over 100,000 houses, reach 1 million people, and share this dream with you and I hope you will be part of it.”
Roy quotes Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
Leadership in Civil Society: Elias Taban
Elias Taban, National Bishop, Evangelical Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Uganda, was a former child soldier who grew up during Sudan’s civil wars, until his father made a deal with the leader to allow him to be dropped off to where he could get to a refugee camp. Despite great hardships, Taban was educated in Africa, receiving diplomas in civil engineering and theology, but returned to Sudan to pastor devastated churches. His courage and selfless efforts saved many lives, and after the war, Taban became known throughout South Sudan as he built schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the region. He and his wife adopted four orphans and currently oversee three orphanages.
In addition to leading the Sudan Evangelical Alliance, he organized Tent Makers International to help with challenging construction and transportation needs. Taban also partnered with Water is Basic and became its general director, leading efforts to drill 433 water wells while also providing employment for citizens devastated by the war. He continues to lead peace negotiations among the tribes and provides aid and education for those internally displaced by the tribal violence.
South Sudan, where a girl is more likely to die in childbirth than be literate,” Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, said in introducing Bishop Taban, “in a country ridden by conflict, he is a voice of peace.”
He came to New York with his wife, a former colonel in the army, and a baby, John, who like him, was abandoned in a forest the day he was born, now 8 months old.
President Clinton, contrasting the achievements of the honorees with the tragedy of the massacre at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which took the life of a CGI worker, her unborn baby and her partner, reflected, “If the people who believe they got meaning from shooting those people in the mall in Kenya then the rest of us are wasting our time, just fiddling around, letting our lives run out, you can’t look at the people who have come here and been honored tonight and believe that. No thinking, feeling person can believe that. If someone had believed that when Elias was a child soldier, he’d have an unmarked grave somewhere instead of being a hero to the newest country of 21st century.
“I see my friend Kenan from Somalia – he lost friends he grew up with and became an amazing human being, because as Mike Bloomberg said- and it’s the motto of foundation – ‘We’re all in this together.’ The question is what does it mean?” he asks.
“The whole 21st century is a contest between the clenched fist and the open hand, the builders and the breakers. Tonight we celebrate the open hand, the open heart, and the builders, and we thank them all.”
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, brings together global leaders from business, government and civil society who brainstorm, network, partner and collaborate to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Each of the CGI members are required to make a project commitment and are held accountable for measurable results.
By the close of the 9th Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, this year’s attendees made over 160 new Commitments to Action, expected to impact nearly 22.2 million people and valued at more than $10.8 billion. To date, nearly 2,500 commitments have been made, improving the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $87.9 billion.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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