Haroon Yasin, co-founder and chairperson of Orenda, developer of a digital education curriculum, has been recognised by Global Citizen and the Waislitz Foundation, global advocacy groups, as the 2020 Waislitz Global Citizen Award grand prize winner on 11 August. The awards are annual cash prizes totaling $250 000 that recognise excellence of individuals in their work to end extreme poverty with the grand prize being $100 000 and three prizes of $50 000 each. Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen says they are thrilled to recognise this year’s winners whose work exemplifies the values and practices of being a global citizen and are inspired by their dedication and impact towards eradicating extreme poverty. He says all applicants were evaluated based on individual merit in five key areas including global citizenship, proof of concept, disruption, scalability and adaptability.
“Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, founder of ColdHubs, a solar-powered walk-in cold room producer, was announced as the Disruptor Award winner, while Farhad Wajdi, founder of Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan Organization, which empowers unemployed youth and underprivileged women to pursue social enterprises, won the Citizen Choice Award. Muzalema Mwanza, founder of Safe Motherhood Alliance, producer of safe baby delivery kits to women in rural areas, won the COVID-19 Response Award,” says Evans. Evans says Haroon Yasin founded his first company at the age of 19 setting up slum schools that taught street children and in the nine years since then founded Orenda, which produces an entertaining digital curriculum that embeds education in the child’s daily life so they can learn better. He says their mobile app has now reached over half a million children with learning material vetted by the government of Pakistan that is broadcast on national television to 54 million people, many of whom do not have access to education. “Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu builds and operates 100% solar-powered walk-in cold rooms for farmers and vendors to store and preserve fruits and vegetables extending shelf life from 2 to 21 days, serving 3 517 users. Their 24 hubs have saved 20.4K tons of food from spoilage, increased user income, created 48 new jobs for women, and the idea came while he worked as an agricultural radio broadcaster observing food spoilage at markets due to lack of cold storage,” he says. Alex Waislitz, founder of the Waislitz Foundation, says Farhad Wajdi defied opposition to implement Solar Powered Women-Run Food Carts involving women in male-dominated occupations eliminating barriers that deprive millions of Afghan women from socio-economic opportunities. He says Farhad’s initiative inspired thousands of women to do business fearlessly and during COVID-19, he converted food carts into disinfectant units to provide free sanitation and disinfection services to half a million people. “Muzalema Mwanza's organisation improves health-care access and trains women in communities as frontline health workers, distributing 10 000 baby delivery kits and has trained 50 traditional birth attendants to date. She was pregnant with her first child when she realised she had to provide her own birthing materials to give birth at a public hospital in Zambia and discovered this was a global issue affecting over 100 million women each year pushing them into poverty due to health costs, resulting in high mortality rates when they couldn’t afford it,” says Waislitz. Since 2014 the Waislitz Foundation has committed more than $2 million to the Waislitz Global Citizen Awards and efforts to end extreme poverty by 2030 and through these awards winners will be able to expand on work they are currently doing. The awards were conceived to help shine a light on heroes working at grass roots of their communities towards ending global poverty and to inspire others to do the same. “The foundation aims to improve the quality of people’s lives through innovative initiatives and partnerships. Now more than ever, the world needs to be united in addressing the challenges that face all of us and I hope to continue to grow the Waislitz Global Citizen Awards in coming years to help fund the work of even more people such as this year’s worthy winners,” says Waislitz.