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Grassroots Energy Roused to Meet Planetary Crises

Meet the winners of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize. From left: Ineza Umuhoza Grace; Pashtana Durrani; Nkosana Butholenkosi Masuku; Wangari Kuria; Deja Foxx. 2023 (Photo courtesy Global Citizen) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

NEW YORK, New York, April 30, 2023 ( Sustainability News) –  The dignitaries and activists, journalists and diplomats attending the Global Citizen NOW Summit on Thursday in New York City applauded young educator Nkosana Butholenkosi Masuku of Zimbabwe, who received a US$250,000 grant as the winner of the 2023 Cisco Youth Leadership Award.

Masuku, 28, is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher with three years of experience at a rural school in Zimbabwe. 

After personally coping with the shortage of teaching resources for STEM subjects in rural schools, Masuku created Sciency Learning, <> a platform that offers applied and practical STEM education to pupils across Zimbabwe at a low cost. 

The “Sciency Ecosystem” forms the basis, ensuring robust development of STEM and Robotics learning across the African continent.

The Sciency Makerlab is a space for learners to learn, create and innovate in STEM and Robotics. The Robotics Starter kit allows learners to get an introduction into robotics and gain a hands-on experience. And Sciency works with schools to establish Robotics School Clubs as an extra-curricular program.

Masuku wrote on LinkedIn Thursday, “What an epic morning it was meeting the Cisco Team and Global Citizens as I toured the Cisco HQ Offices in New York and had a pleasure to share my story with the team as the Global Citizen Cisco Youth Leadership Award Winner. I look forward the partnership with Cisco and integrating their super cool tech in our MakerLabs for increased efficiency and a better end to end learning experience for our students.”

An alumnus of the Mandela Washington Fellowship and an award-winning entrepreneur, Masuku hopes to help decrease dropout rates and advance STEM development in poor communities. He plans to use the $250,000 grant to enable his organization’s continued growth.  

Global Citizen is an organization focused on ending extreme poverty that is best known for its headliner concerts in Central Park and last year in Accra, Ghana. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada appeared at the summit to announce that his Liberal government has renewed funding for grassroots organizations that advocate and promote gender equality around the world. The Canadian government pledged C$195 million over five years for the qualifying grassroots organizations.

Nkosana Masuku of Zimbabwe, received a US$250,000 grant as the winner of the 2023 Cisco Youth Leadership Award. Here, he displays the flag of Zimbabwe at the New York offices of the Award’s sponsor, the multinational digital communications technology conglomerate Cisco Systems. April 27, 2023, New York, New York. (Photo courtesy Nkosana Masuku via LinkedIn) Posted for media use

“As we implement game-changing policies that help women in Canada like $10-a-day child care, we must also support women around the world who are seeing their hard-fought rights repealed and clawed back. In places like Iran, Afghanistan, and beyond, Canada will continue to be there as a partner for women’s rights organizations fighting for equality. Only when we achieve gender equality, can we truly build a more peaceful, equal, and healthy world for everyone,” Prime Minister Trudeau said.

Four Outstanding Women Win Global Citizen Prizes

The annual Global Citizen Prizes recognize and celebrate activists who go above and beyond the call of duty to accomplish the world’s overarching to-do list: the United Nations’ Global Goals.

Each of this year’s winners, who all happen to be female, will receive a year-long program of support from Global Citizen, as well as a US$10,000 donation to their organization to further support their work.

Citizen Award, United States: Deja Foxx, activist and founder of GenZ Girl Gang.
Image: Provided

Deja Foxx, 22, is leading thought at the intersection of social justice and social media. She is the founder of GenZ Girl Gang, a student at Columbia University, and a Digital Creator with Ford Models who got her start advocating for reproductive justice after experiencing homelessness in her teenage years. 

At just 19, she worked for U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris as an influencer and surrogate strategist and thus became one of the youngest presidential campaign staffers in modern history.

Citizen Award, Afghanistan: Pashtana Durrani, Social and Political Rights Activist; Executive Director of LEARN Afghanistan

Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan feminist, activist, and educator. At the age of 21, she became the head of her family following her father’s death. By then she had already founded LEARN Afghanistan, the country’s first digital school network.  

As a human rights defender, she was forced into exile by the Taliban takeover in 2021 in order to continue her work safely from abroad. She is currently a visiting fellow at Wellesley Centers for Women in Massachusetts where she is pursuing research on female education and maternal and newborn health.

She continues to provide education for hundreds of girls in Afghanistan despite the current ban that forbids them from attending school.

Forthright and courageous, Durrani is a regular commentator on TV and radio and has been the subject of articles published by PBS, BBC, Elle, Der Spiegel, and Wellesley College. 

Among her many achievements, Durrani has been named a Global Education Champion by the Malala Fund for her outstanding work to advance Afghan girls’ education. The BBC nominated her as one of its 100 most influential women in 2021, and she was also included in #Times100Talks in 2022. 

Durrani is a member of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative’s Feminist Education Coalition; an Aspen New Voices Fellow; and she received the 2021 Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Emerging Leader prize. 

She has served as a global youth representative for Amnesty International and as a board member of the steering committee for the Global Environment Facility. She is also a recipient of the UN Young Activists Award 2022. 

Durrani’s biography, “Last to Eat, Last to Learn,” was published in 2022 in Germany and will be published in 2023 in the United States and Italy.

Citizen Award, Kenya winner Wangari Kuria, Founder & CEO of Farmer on Fire Ltd.
Image: Provided

Wangari Kuria is founder and CEO of Farmer on Fire Ltd, <> an organization based in Nairobi, Kenya, that provides access to information for farmers across Africa. 

It also links established agribusinesses like AGRA <>, a farmer-centered, African-led group that is “transforming Africa’s smallholder farming from a solitary struggle to survive to businesses that thrive,” with companies such as John Deere; NGOs like Heifer international, and the Ministry of Agriculture to over 50,000 smallholder farmers.

Kuria is involved in helping the vulnerable single mothers from the pastoralist communities most affected by climate change. She trains and empowers women to  launch their own mushroom farming businesses. Kuria gets the women started in her model farms where she commercially produces mushrooms; fly larvae useful for recycling organic waste and generating animal feed; and Azolla, an edible freshwater fern. 

Citizen Award, Rwanda: Ineza Umuhoza Grace, Global Coordinator and Co-Founder of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition <>

Ineza Grace is a 27-year-old eco-feminist and impact-driven actor in the climate change and environment sector based in Rwanda, and a researcher in the field of climate change with a focus on climate justice. 

She believes in the power of sharing community voices in speech and song to achieve climate justice through female, youth, and community-driven action. 

Grace is the co-founder and global coordinator of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition – a coalition of over 600 young people from more than 60 countries, advocating and taking action to address loss and damage due to climate change. This can include loss of farmable land due to seawater rise or loss of life and ways of living due to increasingly severe natural disasters.

Grace is also the founder and CEO of the Green Protector, a Rwandan NGO working to increase active youth participation in protecting the environment through climate action. The organization has reached more than 3,000 children and young people, implementing activities and hosting youth engaged in climate policy negotiation on the international level.

Global Citizen Opens Campaign to ‘Power Our Planet’

At the Summit on Thursday, Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization on a mission to end extreme poverty immediately, launched its new global campaign, Power Our Planet: Act Today. Save Tomorrow. 

Co-Chaired by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, Power Our Planet is a global effort to mobilize critical financing for developing countries to fight climate change and extreme poverty.

Global Citizen, Prime Minister Mottley, and supporters are calling for a seismic shift in the way the world’s financial systems work, and are urging governments, development banks, philanthropists and major corporations to give the world’s poor and developing nations access to the financing they urgently need.

“We call on all institutions, including the World Bank, to release the funds necessary to help the world poorest countries to adapt, to transition, and to withstand the climate crisis, not tomorrow but NOW,” Prime Minister Mottley said. “The leaders of wealthy countries must step up and pay up on the $16 billion of climate financing they have promised if we are to help save the planet and save lives. The climate crisis is our reality, and adaptation is key. Join me and take action as part of Global Citizen’s Power Our Planet campaign.”

The financing can help to quicken the transition of least developed countries to clean energy, strengthen their defenses against natural disasters, and more rapidly invest in critical health, food, and education programs for their populations.

Power Our Planet is intended to galvanize millions of global citizens around the world to take action, raise their voices and demand urgent changes from world leaders, starting with delivering on the financing promises they’ve already made, including closing the $16.7 billion* climate finance gap outstanding from the Paris Agreement. 

The campaign will amplify their calls for action through advocacy initiatives, activations, and live events. 

Inflection points throughout this year will include the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan in May; the New Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris, France in June; the G20 summit in New Delhi, India in September; Global Citizen Festival during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in September; and COP28 in Dubai, UAE in November.

“Increasing inequality and climate change threaten to undo a generation’s progress on ending extreme poverty and push millions more people into oppression that is entirely preventable,” said Hugh Evans, co-founder and CEO, Global Citizen. 

Evans told the Associated Press that climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a global debt crisis have erased decades of progress in raising people’s living standard.

“For the first time in my lifetime, we’re making reverse progress on this issue,” Evans said. “When I was born in 1983, 52 percent of the planet lived in extreme poverty. We got it down to seven percent. That was about 690 million people. It’s now increased by hundreds of millions in the last three years.”

“Power Our Planet is a coalition of governments, leaders across sectors, global citizens, artists and activists, and together we’re demanding that it’s time for accountability on past promises and bold, new commitments from world leaders,” Evans said. 

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking virtually from France, supported the campaign. “We all have to be a part of the reshaping and reinvention,” Macron said.

JUST Capital, a New York investment advisory firm and charitable organization, announced the creation of the Corporate Care Network, which aims to improve workplace justice and  health care benefits for workers.

John Legend, 44, the singer, songwriter, pianist, record producer and actor, encouraged supporters to build towards record-breaking youth turnout in the U.S. 2024 presidential election.

Evans maintained that winning the battle against extreme poverty cannot be accomplished without addressing climate change and gender equity at the same time. “We are all interconnected in some ways, whether you like it or not,” he recognized. “No nation is an island unto itself.”