Four activists who helped the poorest citizens of Africa, India, and other developing regions gain empowerment and self-sufficiency were given the 2003 International Activist Award Monday (April 14) at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The award, sponsored by the Gleitsman Foundation, recognizes activist achievements outside the United States. Recipients share a $100,000 prize and receive a sculpture designed by Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Previous recipients include then-African National Congress President Nelson Mandela who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, Chinese democracy advocate Wei Jingsheng, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta, who won the award in 1996 for his work toward peace in East Timor.
“With nearly half the people in the world forced to live on less than $2 per day, poverty has become the pre-eminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age,” said Gleitsman Foundation President and founder Alan L. Gleitsman. “We must recognize that we should not and cannot leave half the world behind as we seek a better future for ourselves. We are proud to recognize the grassroots efforts of our honorees and hope their work will inspire others to follow in their path.”
The International Activist Award is presented in alternating years with the Citizen Activist Award. This year’s award ceremony was hosted by David Gergen, director of the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, and took place in the Kennedy School’s Malkin Penthouse.
The 2003 International Activist Award winners are:
Fazle Abed is founder of Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), one of the world’s largest nongovernmental organizations. Since its founding, BRAC has fought poverty, disease, child mortality, and illiteracy by empowering Bangladesh’s rural poor. BRAC has helped 3.8 million women establish 100,000 village organizations, it has reached 10 million people with its health programs, and has disbursed well over $1 billion in loans through a groundbreaking microcredit program.
Jaya Arunachalam is founder and president of Working Women’s Forum (WWF). WWF reaches over 700,000 women who are the most destitute residents of three southern Indian states. Founded in 1978, WWF is a social organization dedicated to developing the potential of women and relieving poverty, hunger, and indebtedness. Arunachalam is currently developing a new network among women from developed and developing nations called the GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) network.
Roman Imboden, creator of the Multifunctional Platform (MP), is a visionary who has married tradition with modernity in one of the poorest parts of the world. His multifunctional platform grew out of work in Burkina Faso and Niger, and helps lighten women’s workload, raises literacy levels, and creates income for thousands of Africa’s poor.
Roy Prosterman is the founder of the Rural Development Institute (RDI), whose peaceful approach to land reform has been effectively applied in 37 developing countries worldwide. RDI has helped more than 120 million farm families gain ownership or similar rights to the land they till. His work has also brought Prosterman, a graduate of Harvard Law School, two Nobel Peace Prize nominations.