These 3 Remarkable Activists Are the 2020 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award Finalists
From India, the Philippines, and Rwanda, these young leaders are helping shape a better future.
Editor's note: The public voting round for Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award has closed. You can still find out which of the three remarkable finalists is announced as the winner, by tuning in for Global Citizen Prize as it airs and streams globally from Dec. 19. Find out how to tune in here.
It’s truly extraordinary what young people are doing all over the world to make a difference in their communities. They are passionate, empathetic, and civic minded, finding innovative ways to solve the most stubborn of problems.
That’s why the Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award was established in 2018 as an annual award to celebrate and uplift young people around the world who are doing this work and deserve wider recognition.
The prize is for an individual aged 18 to 30 who has contributed meaningfully toward the goal of ending poverty and its systemic causes in their community — and especially focused on those who have harnessed the power of technology and innovation to do so.
The award includes $250,000 funding to support the winner’s organization — funds that will help them to scale up and increase their impact.
The winner will be presented with their award at the Global Citizen Prize ceremony, which celebrates the inspirational activists and leaders of 2020, and will be broadcast and streamed digitally around the world from Dec. 19. You can find out all about the Global Citizen Prize here — and make sure to follow @GlblCtzn on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for the latest updates.
We are so excited to announce the three extraordinary finalists who are in the running for 2020’s prize. It’s no small feat to get to this stage: There’s a stringent application process, and a list of semi-finalists is drawn up before the final shortlist is made. Applicants are judged on their track record of success, as well as their compelling vision for taking their organization forward.
A panel of representatives from Global Citizen, Cisco, esteemed social enterprises, youth leaders, and other leaders in the international development field, are involved in judging the final lists.
However, we now need your voice to help decide the overall winner of the Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award.
Without further ado, here are the incredible finalists for the award — and once you know who you think should win, you can cast your vote here.
Ryan Gersava, Philippines
Virtualahan, Founder and President
Virtualahan, meaning “virtual school”, is a social enterprise in the Philippines that provides digital skills training for people who are typically excluded from the job market because of their health or life circumstances.
This employment discrimination impacts people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or neurodivergent conditions, as well as people who face discrimination because they have spent time in prison, or are former sex workers, or former addicts.
Gerseva himself overcame poverty and completed a degree only to find that a medical diagnosis excluded him from a job that he was otherwise qualified for — a common occurrence in the Philippines as employers often require medical certificates. He decided he had to do something to challenge this injustice.
Founded in 2015, Gersava’s social enterprise Virtualahan has already had tremendous impact. They’ve trained over 600 people who were otherwise struggling to find work and those graduates have gone on to work in start-ups, in data, in blockchain, and for major corporations like Accenture and Microsoft.
Participants also receive life coaching from the resident psychologist — helping them overcome their life’s challenges and gain confidence. The virtual school boasts a 78% employment rate among its graduates and an average income increase of 254%.
You can read more about Gersava and Virtualahan here.
Myna Mahila Foundation, Founder and CEO
After being diagnosed with a serious illness at age 14, Jalota was horrified by the differences in health care she witnessed among those who could afford health care, and those who couldn’t.
When she recovered, Jalota decided to study that inequality and how it affected communities in her city, Mumbai — a journey that led her to meet a community of women in Mumbai’s slums, who shared with her stories of their lives and experiences.
The women she met in the slums spoke of facing so many interconnected challenges: poverty, violence, poor education, lack of access to health care — but Jalota realised that there was one common thread that brought these women together: menstrual hygiene and sanitation.
Jalota founded the Myna Mahila Foundation when she was just 20 to create a pathway to empowerment with the women she was working with — through the production of sanitary pads, an idea that both improves women’s menstrual health while at the same time fostering financial independence.
Now, six years on, the Myna Mahila Foundation has produced over 1 million eco-friendly sanitary pads for women across five cities, and delivered them to 550,000 women in 15 slum communities in Mumbai.
You can read more about Jalota and the Myna Mahila Foundation here.
Water Access Rwanda, Founder and Managing Director
Water Access Rwanda, is a social enterprise that was established to provide poorer African communities with safe and affordable water that is easy to access.
Water scarcity is a dire issue in Africa, and an estimated 400 million sub-Saharan Africans currently don’t have access to the basic human right. After realising the dangerous lengths that some would go to in order to collect water from crocodile-infested lakes, 26-year-old Kwizera has made it her mission to ensure that African communities do not continue to face the struggle.
Kwizera’s ultimate aim is to see an end to the continent’s water crisis by creating sustainable methods for communities to fulfil their daily water needs.
The core focus of Water Access Rwanda is to rehabilitate malfunctioning and forgotten boreholes and replace them with state-of-the-art infrastructure called the INUMA mini-grid, that provides piped, purified water either to a public access point, or directly into people’s homes — a luxury that most in poorer African communities don’t have.
Water Access Rwanda successfully supplies over 70,000 people with water daily in Rwanda and across the borders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Uganda.
You can read more about Kwizera and Water Access Rwanda here.
Join Global Citizen in December 2020 to celebrate the leaders among us who have stepped up against a backdrop of unprecedented global challenges to take action for the world we want — a world that is fair, just, and equal.
The broadcast and digitally streamed award ceremony will also feature inspirational stories of human strength and unforgettable performances that will bring together artists, activists, and global leaders to remind each of us that, together, we will come out of this year stronger. Find out more about the Global Citizen Prize here.