Applications for the 2024 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award are open from Nov. 1, 2023, until Dec. 15, 2023, at 5 p.m. PT. Find out more and apply here.

On Thursday, April 27, some of the world’s most extraordinary activists, advocates, leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs gathered for an evening of celebration of the winners of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize

The star-studded ceremony, held at The Glasshouse in New York City, was hosted by actress, humanitarian, and Global Citizen Ambassador Nomzamo Mbatha, and featured appearances by Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Padma Lakshmi, Bridget Moynahan, Erna Solberg, Elizabeth Wathuti, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and many more; along with performances from Samara Joy, Chloe Flower, and Natasha Bedingfield. 

The Global Citizen Prize exists to recognize and celebrate the unsung activists who are dedicating themselves to taking exceptional action to end extreme poverty and its systemic causes in their own communities and around the world, with this year’s award ceremony honoring activists from Afghanistan, Kenya, the US, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe. 

Each of this year’s Global Citizen Prize winners will receive a year-long program of support from Global Citizen, together with a donation to their organization to further support their truly life-changing work. 

Come with us as we revisit some of the most powerful, beautiful, tear-jerking, and joyful moments from the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony. 

1. Erna Solberg & Padma Lakshmi welcoming Afghan feminist, activist, and educator Pashtana Durrani to the stage

Human rights defender Pashtana Durrani, winner of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Afghanistan, receives her award from Padma Lakshmi and Erna Solberg at the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Ryan Muir for Global Citizen

When she was just 21, Pashtana Durrani became the head of her family following her father’s death. By then, she had already founded LEARN Afghanistan, the country’s first-ever digital school network. 

As a human rights defender, Pashtana was forced into exile by the Taliban takeover in 2021, to continue her work safely from outside of the country. Since then, the Taliban have banned women and girls from attending school beyond the sixth grade, as well as places of higher education. 

As Erna Solberg, former Prime Minister of Norway and Global Citizen Global Board Member, said, welcoming the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Afghanistan winner to the stage: “When the right to hold your leaders accountable, and your right to expression, association, and protection are curtailed, the world needs defenders to keep up the fight.” 

Highlighting the courage of Pashtana’s work, producer, TV host, author, and activist Padma Lakshmi continued: “Despite having to flee her home country for fear of persecution, she continues to pursue her vision of free education for all.” 

2. Pashtana Durrani dedicating her award to Afghan girls, activists, and teachers

Receiving her award from Solberg and Lakshmi, Pashtana said that the award “is not just a recognition of my work, but a reminder of the urgent need for all of us to give attention towards girls’ education in Afghanistan.” 

“As a Global Citizen, I am committed to fighting for girls’ education, equality, and human rights and building a sustainable and more inclusive world for future generations,” she continued. 

“I want to dedicate this award to all the Afghan girls, the activists, and the teachers, who are working tirelessly to make a difference in Afghanistan,” she said. “Together, we can all create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a fulfilling and dignified life, and where our planet is healthy and thriving…Let us continue the work together and build a better future.” 

3. Elizabeth Wathuti telling her friend and fellow climate activist Ineza Umuhoza Grace ‘I told you so!’

Eco-feminist Ineza Umuhoza Grace, winner of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Rwanda, receiving her award at the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Yuvraj Khanna for Global Citizen

Eco-feminist Ineza Umuhoza Grace is a leading voice in the movement of young people demanding climate justice, as the co-founder and global coordinator of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition — a coalition of more than 600 youth from more than 60 countries — and the founder and CEO of The Green Protector, an NGO working to engage young people in climate action. 

The winner of the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Rwanda, was welcomed to the stage by Natasha Bedingfield and fellow environmentalist and climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti. 

“I’m so excited that we get to present this award to my friend and fellow climate activist Ineza Umuhoza Grace,” said Wathuti. “Last year, I named her as one of the young climate activists to watch and as we stand here tonight to present her with the Global Citizen award for the work that she does on climate justice, I only have one thing to say to her: I told you so! Onwards and upwards.” 

4. Ineza Umuhoza Grace explaining climate injustice in the most perfect way

As Ineza told the audience: “Climate injustice  — especially the concept of loss and damage — is a complex topic, but I can explain it simply enough.” 

“Imagine someone struggling to stay afloat, drowning in deep water,” she continued. “Would you find a way to help them immediately, or would you stand there, watching her or him drowning and promising to have a rescue team come over, without knowing whether it’s going to come or when it’s going to arrive?” 

“Developing countries are drowning right now — and they have been pushed into deep water by developed ones, who also have the power to pull them out of the trouble,” she said.

“Acting to address the climate crisis should not be treated as a political issue,” Ineza finished. “It is a matter of us all standing together in global solidarity and responding to and respecting the statement: ‘Leave no one behind.’” 

5. Model & activist Maria Borges celebrating those who aren’t just talking about the world’s problems, but are taking action and creating solutions

Wangari Kuria, winner of the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Kenya, receives her award from Maria Borges and Alvaro Lario, at the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Yuvraj Khanna for Global Citizen

Wangari Kuria, Founder and CEO of Farmer on Fire Ltd, is the embodiment of the idea that we can change the world by helping people to help themselves. 

Her organization, based in Nairobi, provides access to information for farmers across Africa; linking established agribusinesses to over 50,000 smallholder farmers. 

This year’s Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, Kenya, winner, Wangari is also passionate about supporting single mothers from the pastoralist communities who are most affected by climate change, training women to launch their own mushroom farming businesses. 

Model and activist Maria Borges welcomed Wangari to the stage, saying: “I could stand here and talk to you about the 45 million people on the brink of famine across 43 countries. I could outline the multiple crises that our world is facing, and spell out the challenges we have yet to overcome.”

“But that’s not why we’re here tonight. We are here to celebrate those who aren’t just sitting down talking about the world’s problems, they are taking action and creating solutions. Wangari Kuria is a shining example of what that looks like.” 

President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alvaro Lario continued: “By helping over 50,000 smallholder farmers gain access to vital information, she is providing single mothers with the tools to be self-sufficient. She is a pioneer who works tirelessly to break down the barriers for youth and for women.” 

6. Wangari Kuria making everyone in the room well up 

Accepting her award, Wangari told the audience: “My greatest reward comes from working day in, day out in my farm with other single mothers from my community to empower them to go and start their own commercial ventures, to lead economically empowered lives.” 

“Farmers in Kenya have a lot of resources,” she continued. “There’s a lot of arable land, labor, and young blood. What they need is someone who will support them to succeed in their business.”

She finished: “This award serves as a reminder to that small girl, that her work is seen and her contribution is needed to feed the world.”

7. Bridget Moynahan reminding us of the importance of walking with purpose

Deja Foxx, winner of the Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, USA, receives her award from Global Citizen Ambassador Bridget Moynahan, at the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Yuvraj Khanna for Global Citizen

At 22 years old, Deja Foxx is leading thought at the intersection of social justice and social media. After working for Kamala Harris at just 19, she became one of the youngest presidential campaign staffers in modern history. 

Now she’s the founder of GenZ Girl Gang, a student at Columbia University, a Digital Creator with Ford Models, a champion for reproductive justice, and the recipient of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award, USA. 

Global Citizen Ambassador Bridget Moynahan welcomed Deja to the stage, saying: “You can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their shoes. And I can tell that our next Global Citizen Prize recipient — whether she’s wearing high heels or boots… or high-heeled boots — gets up every day and walks with purpose.”

“Deja Foxx has already gone viral for standing up to a state senator, founded a reproductive health access project, and made history as one of the youngest presidential campaign staffers, all before she turned 21,” she added. “And if you ask her, she’ll tell you she is just warming up.” 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Executive Director of UN Women and Deputy President of South Africa, continued: “She’s creating change, she’s a thought leader, social justice advocate, and she’s redefining what activism looks like, one social media post at a time.” 

8. Deja Foxx reminding us what it means to be a role model

Receiving her award from Moynahan and Mlambo-Ngcuka, Deja said: “The truth is, there is nothing I would rather be in this life than a good role model and as I reflect on what that means, what that looks like, I think of a moment from when I was 15 — when a local organizer gave me a call and asked me to join her for an action to fight for better sex education in my Arizona school district.”

“To which I replied no, I couldn’t make it,” she continued. “Well why not? My family didn’t have a car. She said just five words to me which changed my life: I’ll give you a ride.” 

“That one moment, that one interaction, those five words, encapsulate better than any title ever could what I want to be,” Deja said. “The kind of person that sees potential in someone and pushes them to see it too.”

“If there’s one thing I know for sure,” she added, “there is a version of my younger self out there right now, listening and watching, whose future and bodily autonomy deserve to be protected today.” 

9. Nomzamo Mbatha celebrating opportunities for children, families, and communities to pull themselves out of poverty 

Nkosana Butholenkosi Musuku, winner of the 2023 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award, receives his award from Nomzamo Mbatha and Cisco's Fran Katsoudas, at the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Ryan Muir for Global Citizen

After seeing firsthand the shortage of teaching resources for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects in Zimbabwe’s rural schools, Nkosana Butholenkosi Musuku created Sciency Learning — a platform that offers STEM education to pupils across the country in a way that’s both low-cost and accessible. 

Welcoming Nkosana to the stage, Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s Executive President and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer, described this year’s Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award winner as a “new visionary leader”, who is “preparing the next generation of students in Zimbabwe for the future.”

Actress, humanitarian, and Global Citizen Ambassador, Nomzamo Mbatha continued: “By using emerging technology, he’s created an immersive experience that allows students in underfunded schools to get a hands-on science education, virtually.”

She said: “This kind of out-of-the-box solution creates opportunities for children to pull themselves, their families, and communities out of poverty.” 

10. Nkosana Butholenkosi Musuku calling on all of us to be advocates for quality STEM education

As Nkosana told the audience when accepting his award: “This award will go a long way in helping us expand our work, reach more students, and make a bigger impact. We believe that every child deserves quality STEM education, and this award is a step forward in our mission to break the cycle of poverty.”

“Extreme poverty remains a harsh reality for millions of people, and improved access to quality education is a crucial component in ending this cycle,” he continued. 

He finished: “As we celebrate this award, I call on all of us to advocate for quality STEM education and to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential, and make a positive impact in their community.” 

11. Nomzamo closing the show with excitement, hope, and an important reminder 

Host Nomzamo Mbatha on stage during the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony at The Glasshouse in New York City on April 27, 2023.
Image: Ryan Muir for Global Citizen

While the 2023 Global Citizen Prize ceremony is over, as Nomzamo Mbatha reminded the audience: “This is just the beginning.”

“Our journey with these incredible activists starts right now, and we are excited about the endless possibilities for them and for the work they are doing on behalf of the most marginalized communities around the world,” she continued.

“Together,” she finished, “we can be the change we want to see in the world. The greatest resource we have is each other.” 

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11 of the Most Powerful Moments From the 2023 Global Citizen Prize Ceremony