With dramatic shifts in global politics and ongoing, devastating conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Burundi, you’re not alone if you think the world is spinning out of control. Yet, recent research has demonstrated that we are living in one of the most prosperous eras in history.
Behind this progress, in part, are tireless change makers who continue to fight for a more just and equitable world. Among them are doctors working in remote regions to heal the most vulnerable, educators seeking to empower women, and humanitarians by every definition.
If you’re searching for proof that individual people can actually change the world – look no further than this year’s Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity’s finalists. Founded in honor of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and with support from George Clooney and the late Elie Wiesel – the Aurora Prize will honor the change makers and spur on their progress with a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to give an organization of their choosing a $1,000,000 award.
Meet the five Aurora Prize finalists:
Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, Founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, Somalia
Her husband was assassinated by Somali warlords in 1996 for his peace-making efforts. Today, Fartuun Adan is a champion for human rights, peace, and development, as well as rehabilitation of child soldiers across Somalia. As the Executive Director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, an NGO based in Mogadishu, Somalia, Adan has supported more than 400 Somali women and girls through counseling, medical services, entrepreneurial skills training, and relocation. With her daughter Ilwad, Adan also works to support victims of gender-based violence through her Sister Somalia program and established the first sexual violence hotline and rape crisis center in Mogadishu in 2011.
Ms. Jamila Afghani, Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, Afghanistan
An instrumental figure in a growing movement for equal and fair treatment of women in Afghanistan, Jamila Afghani is the founder and chairperson of the Noor Education and Capacity Development Organization. Afghani founded the organization in an effort to provide women and girls education on economic skills, human rights, and literacy from an Islamic perspective. As an Islamic scholar herself, she also created gender-sensitive imam training in Kabul and has brought together Muslim faith leaders from around gender equality.
Dr. Tom Catena, Surgeon at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, Sudan
Tom Catena is the only permanent doctor that provides services in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains. This region has over half a million people, and Catena treats up to 400 patients per day, on call 24/7. He estimates that he performs upwards of a thousand operations each year. Due to the remoteness of his surroundings, he often uses treatments that don’t require electricity or running water. Catena has been in the Nuba Mountains since 2007, and is originally from Amsterdam, NY, USA. A finalist for the Aurora Prize in 2016, Catena is globally regarded as a distinguished humanitarian medical professional.
Mr. Muhammad Darwish, Medical Doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital, Syria
Muhammed Darwish is a 26-year old dentist from Madaya, a besieged town in southwestern Syria. He’s taken on the responsibilities of a medical doctor, offering care and procedures and maintaining precise documentation, bringing international attention to the area. Madaya has an estimated 40,000 citizens. Despite many of his patients being children, Darwish has been threatened by Syrian government forces for his humanitarian efforts.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, Gynecological Surgeon and Founder of the Panzi Hospital, The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Denis Mukwege has provided support to more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including physical, psychological, and legal assistance. Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in 1999 in efforts to advocate for and protect his community. He has also been an enormous advocate for bringing justice to those responsible for sexual violence, including the Congolese government and militia groups. Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mukwege has received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University.
Image: Operation Lifeline Helps Displaced People in Southern Sudan. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.