London: Fifteen individuals and groups have been recognised for making a significant impact on communities, countries and regions of the Commonwealth, by creating innovative solutions to pressing development challenges.
This year’s winners of the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards each received a trophy, £3,000 in prize money and the opportunity to scale up their innovations in collaboration with partners and mentors across the Commonwealth.
Winners range from an inventor in India who creates low-cost portable housing for COVID-19 quarantine and shelter from extreme weather, to a Cameroonian manufacturer of 100% biodegradable sanitary pads made of banana fibre, and a coalition of young Pacific Islanders pushing for reforms in international law to address climate injustices.
Samar , one of the winners who hails from Pakistan, has the use of truck art to address social issues in Pakistan. Billboard on wheels with messages and images drawn from local culture and traditions are helping change mindsets and promote the empowerment of girls and women in remote parts of Pakistan.
The trucks travel across and reach remote areas of Pakistan, serving as moving billboards. She integrates culture and indigenous folk art, film and folk music to create culturally relevant interventions that resonate with local audiences. Through these innovative tools of storytelling, she has raised awareness about harmful cultural practices, including compensation marriages.
Samar created her first documentary on the practice of ‘Swara,’ a form of compensation child marriage, in order to raise awareness and ultimately mobilise policymakers to abolish this practice. She filed the first Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the compensation marriages and illegal Jirga rulings, which made Swara officially illegal in Pakistan in 2004. This has prevented the potential compensation marriages of thousands of girls in Pakistan.
” I want to continue using innovative tools for spreading awareness and changing mindsets. Art has the power to connect people and educate audiences in an innovative way. Raising awareness is the first step to start localising SDGs. If done in collaboration with the local communities the message and the information will be owned by the audiences that matter. In future I would like to continue creating innovative, culturally relevant work that is local, relevant and sustainable,” she said
When asked what kind of support would she like to grow her innovation from other stakeholders such government, international organisations and the business community, Samar said she wants International Stakeholders to understand relevance of campaigns that are local and indigenous.
“I would like international organisations, business community, government and other stakeholders to understand the relevance of campaigns that are local and indigenous. Truck art is a tool that is easily acceptable and valued by the local communities. Not only that, they are the co-creators of the campaign. It is mostly men, the drivers of the vehicles, the owners of trucks, truck artists etc. who become the real advocates and change makers. Instead of replicating ideas from other parts of the world why not explore local and indigenous tools and ideas for a bigger impact”she added.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland applauded the diverse line-up of change-makers during a virtual meeting yesterday in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. She said:
“Over many decades, the people of the Commonwealth member nations, through the Commonwealth networks which connect us and encourage us to work together, have found pioneering ways of overcoming daunting challenges and of solving seemingly intractable problems.
“My intention of instituting the Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards in 2019 was to accord recognition to such achievements, wherever and however in the Commonwealth they are being achieved – and particularly among that 60% of the 2.5 billion people in our member nations who are under the age of 30.
“I hope the added exposure the awards bring will help you to attract the support you deserve from governments, investors, mentors and partners to scale up your work and achieve even more impact.”
One of the winners is Marie-Claire N. Kuja, who founded KujaEcoPads to fight period poverty and help improve the lives of women and girls in Cameroon. She said: