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For Women’s History month in 2023, we asked our Elevate community to nominate incredible organizations working to end period poverty for our Elevate Prize GET LOUD Award. The result? We received 5,926 nominations on Instagram – at the time, our largest number of nominations!

According to the World Bank, an estimated 500 million women lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management.  The need is urgent. 

The winner was Drawing Dreams Initiative, a grassroots organization based in Kenya on a mission to drive menstrual equity, health, and education.

We were inspired by the organization’s approach, focusing on practical support AND systemic change in a country where as many as 65% of women and girls cannot afford menstruation products. A year after they were named as the winner, we were excited to catch up with Drawing Dreams and learn more about how their impact is growing.

According to Drawing Dreams’ founder, Grace Wanene, the award ushered in a year of scale and perspective. “When someone truly believes in you, it validates your work and its impact.” 

In 2023, the organization provided over 50,000 sustainable period products to people in need, and grew from just a few school partnerships to 16 – with an impact that reaches out beyond the classroom. “When we adopt a school, we adopt the entire community,” Grace told Elevate, highlighting programs that break taboos around menstrual and reproductive health, are changing mindsets, and even impacting conversations on a national and governmental level.

“Period poverty is a silent pandemic,” Grace noted. “It is not only the lack of period products, but unmet needs, infrastructure, and support for girls.” Grace went on to explain that women and girls often have to ask questions like:  ‘How safe are these toilets?’ ‘Will I have someone follow me?’ ‘Do I have access to water?’ 

Last May, Drawing Dreams hosted the first-ever Menstrual Equity Summit in Kenya, bringing together 125 delegates from across East Africa who shared best practices and lessons with each other. “We had policy makers, fellow community-based organizations, NGOs, and individuals who are passionate about menstrual health,” says Grace. “Some of our teachers were there, some of our beneficiaries, especially teenage mothers…and even our county Governor was there.” Based on this success, the organization hopes to host another summit in 2024.

While tireless leaders like Grace are driving change every day, there is so much work to be done. It’s going to take the kind of systemic change that comes from collective action, where we ALL have a role to play. At Elevate, we’re proud to be a small part of the solution. 

What YOU can do today to help!

Support Drawing Dreams.

Learn more about period poverty around the world.  

Live in the U.S.? Take action today to abolish tampon tax.

Join the conversation. 

We can’t think of anything that represents Women’s History Month better than women changemakers dedicated to championing and lifting up other women. 

That’s exactly what two of our Elevate Prize winners have dedicated their lives to and are working towards on a daily basis: 2023 winner Teresa Njoroge, founder and CEO of Clean Start Africa, and 2024 winner, Sonya Passi, founder and CEO of FreeFrom.

Teresa and Sonya are leading organizations that not only focus on women’s rights, but are driving real progress towards gender equity and safety. What’s more, both organizations share a belief that change should be community-based AND systemic.

Clean Start Africa works with women and children in Kenya whose lives have been impacted by the prison system, offering opportunities for reintegration.  

 “Our direct beneficiaries are the women, girls, and children who have been impacted by the criminal justice system,” Teresa told us. “They’re in [prisons] purely because they’re poor and marginalized… [We] have to work and reform the criminal justice system, because if we don’t, then it continues to channel these vulnerable and poor women over and over again.” Re-framing what justice could be  – and should be – is central to Clean Start Africa’s strategy.

Similarly, FreeFrom is focused on supporting survivors of intimate partner violence and reframing  how we, as a society, think about it, so that rather than being seen as a product of bad luck or bad choices, it’s treated as the systemic issue that it is. 

“The number one obstacle of survivor safety is financial insecurity,” says Sonya. “In other words, intimate partner violence is a structural economic issue with both economic causes and economic consequences…Our work is based on the premise that we can’t end gender-based violence unless survivors can afford to heal and rebuild their lives.”

Teresa and Sonya both bring profound lived experiences to their work. Teresa, having been falsely accused and imprisoned, intimately understands the injustices faced by women within the criminal justice system. This firsthand experience drives her mission at Clean Start Africa. Sonya, meanwhile, has been a dedicated anti-violence activist since she was a teenager. Her long-standing commitment suggests a deep-seated drive to address and end gender-based violence. Both women leverage their unique backgrounds to forge meaningful, systemic solutions.. 

“We have to build a truly survivor-centered and inclusive movement—one that welcomes and works for all survivors by starting with and centering our own communities in the design of policies, programs, and resources,” Sonya notes. 

By drawing from their own lived experiences, and deep-rooted partnership with their communities to fuel policy change, both organizations are tackling the symptoms and the causes of inequality – and making the world a safer place to be – for women, for girls, and for everyone.

At Elevate, we’re proud to work with and learn from them–—this Women’s History Month and beyond.  

“I never dreamed that this would be possible!”

That’s what 2024 Elevate Prize winner, Melissa Malzkuhn, Director of Motion Light Lab, an organization advancing sign language fluency and equity through immersive content, said to us as she saw her face on a Times Square billboard announcing our new cohort of winners. 

At Elevate, we believe that changemakers and the good they ignite deserve the same recognition as those traditionally in the spotlight – and few pieces of real estate represent the spotlight like Times Square.  That’s why, to announce our 2024 Elevate Prize winners, we put them on a billboard soaring high above the bustle of Broadway for everyone to see and celebrate the great work that they do. The epitome of Make Good Famous!

 “It’s an amazing experience to see a Deaf person represented in Times Square,” Melissa told us. “It really means a lot. I want the world to understand that our community has so much to contribute in so many different ways. We’re so rich in our cultural history and we want to share that. To be visible is really inspiring.”

“Make Good Famous means making good people famous, and that includes people who are impacted by the justice system,” said Daniel Forkkio, CEO of Represent Justice, an organization using the power of the media to reimagine the justice system. “We are bringing thousands and hopefully millions of people to the stories of people who have suffered incredible things but are also living incredibly resilient, successful lives, and doing their best to change the system every single day.  Hopefully, we’re humanizing those people and other people who are impacted by the system as well.”

Even winners who weren’t able to be there in-person were proud of this moment of important visibility for their work. “Can’t say I ever expected to see [EarthEnable]‘s logo on a Times Square billboard!,” wrote winner Gayatri Datar, co-founder and CEO of EarthEnable, an organization developing natural building materials to create healthy and sustainable homes in rural Africa.  

“I share this with firm belief that entrepreneurs, changemakers, community problem fixers, social leaders [and] designers of our future deserve to be on the same platforms as other superstars like actors and athletes,” said Mpindi Abaas, CEO of Media Challenge Initiative, inspiring the next generation of journalists in Africa. “We must #MakeGoodFamous in any way we can, so that the next generation can find a better world and also have a lot of great and uplifting content to consume.”

Visibility matters. Representation matters. And who shares the spotlight matters. 

It is always an honor to shout our Elevate Prize winners’ achievements from the rooftops – and we’re thrilled that this time, we got to do that literally!

MIAMI, Feb. 6, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The Elevate Prize Foundation announced today the winners of the fourth annual Elevate Prize, which grants more than $5 million in unrestricted funding and supportive services across a group of diverse social changemakers working to solve pressing issues around the world. In the face of growing conflict and uncertainty around the world, this year’s 10 recipients champion innovative solutions across a spectrum of pressing global issues, including sustainable development, nutrition, education equity, social justice reform, domestic/intimate partner violence, refugee rights, and representation of the Deaf community.

“This year’s winners embody the essence of our foundation’s commitment to pushing boundaries and broadening the impact landscape. These remarkable individuals represent an expanded scope of social change – a pivotal shift in what is expected to be a pivotal year for the world,” said Joseph Deitch, founder of the Elevate Prize Foundation. “We are excited to join forces to amplify their impact and catalyze a positive ripple effect that goes beyond borders and disciplines, recognizing that their stories will motivate others to join the journey toward a better future.”

Founded in 2019 by Deitch, the Elevate Prize Foundation is on a mission to “Make Good Famous” by bringing visibility to the work of changemakers, creating a fanbase for social good, and helping create a world where more are inspired to take action. The foundation will partner with these rising activists and social entrepreneurs, providing them with resources to raise visibility of their work and multiply their impact. 

This year’s Elevate Prize winners will each be awarded an unrestricted grant of $300,000. They will also receive tailored services, which include communications and content strategy, branding, social media training, and leadership development – all designed to help them amplify their stories, broaden their reach, and deepen their impact in making a positive difference in the world.

“This year is a watershed moment for us. In a world where burnout is a real concern for the non-profit sector, we are committing ourselves to supporting whole leaders – acknowledging the myriad of challenges changemakers face and providing them with the tools and resources they need to drive impactful change sustainably,” said Carolina García Jayaram, CEO of the Elevate Prize Foundation. “We approach this work in humble partnership with these visionary leaders so that they may flourish personally and professionally, ensuring their lasting impact in the world.”

This year’s Elevate Prize winners are:

  1. Zarlasht Halaimzai, Founder of Amna, which aids individuals, organizations, and refugee communities by establishing secure spaces for rejuvenating group activities and mental health support while rekindling a sense of joy and belonging among forcibly displaced persons.
  2. Gayatri Datar, Co-Founder & CEO of EarthEnable, which creates healthy and environmentally-friendly homes in rural Africa by using natural materials and green building techniques for those in need of rebuilding.   
  3. Wawira Nijiru, Executive Director of Food for Education Foundation, which provides subsidized nutritious meals to primary school children, improves nutrition outcomes, ends classroom hunger, and improves school attendance and performance. 
  4. Sonya Passi, Founder & CEO of FreeFrom, which is building an ecosystem of support to ensure that survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence have the resources to get safe, heal, and prevent future harm.  
  5. Mpindi Abaas, Co-Founder & CEO of Media Challenge Initiative, a youth-driven organization building the next generation of journalists in Africa through training, mentorship and experiential peer-to-peer learning models.  
  6. Melissa Malzkuhn, Director of Motion Light Lab, an award-winning creative lab focusing on creating an equitable world through immersive content, literacy-based activities, and other initiatives that advances Deaf representation and competency across different sectors of society. 
  7. Daniel Forkkio, CEO of Represent Justice, an organization using the power of media to engage audiences in reimagining the justice system and creating real demand for anti-carceral change and solutions.
  8. Isabelle Kamariza, President & Founder of Solid’Africa, which aims to preserve dignity, accelerate the recovery process, and promote health equity for vulnerable patients in public hospitals by supplying them with nutritious, healthy meals.
  9. Sam Bencheghib, Co-Founder of Sungai Watch, which protects and helps restore Indonesia’s rivers by developing and designing simple technologies to stop the flow of plastic pollution from going into the ocean.
  10. Dr. Kwan Stewart, Co-Founder of Project Street Vet, which provides medical care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness. Dr. Stewart was also named the 2023 CNN Hero of the Year.

As part of the foundation’s second year collaborating with CNN Heroes, Dr. Kwan Stewart was named an Elevate Prize winner, receiving a grant of $300K. Additionally, as part of the collaboration, the Elevate Prize Foundation matched donations up to $50K for all of the Top 10 CNN Heroes and will provide them with organizational capacity-building and tailored resources to bring visibility to their work and maximize their impact. 

This year’s Elevate Prize winners, as well as last year’s cohort of winners and the Top 10 CNN Heroes, will gather in Miami in May 2024 for the second annual Make Good Famous Summit to examine ways to put media, content, and creators to work to challenge inequitable systems and inspire lasting change. 

About the Elevate Prize Foundation
Founded in 2019 by businessman and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, the Elevate Prize Foundation is a global non-profit that empowers social entrepreneurs and activists by providing them with the resources they need to amplify their impact. The foundation’s signature program is its annual Elevate Prize, which is awarded to 10 global leaders tackling pressing issues in innovative ways. The Elevate Prize Catalyst Award, another one of the foundation’s programs, recognizes prominent individuals for their commitment to inspiring global social action and using their influence for the good of humanity. In 2022, the foundation launched the Elevate Prize GET LOUD Award, a monthly grant to fuel grassroots movements and organizers on the frontlines committed to collective action and building power among communities. For more information, visit www.elevateprize.org and follow @ElevatePrize on InstagramTwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook.

Sonya Passi, a 2024 Elevate Prize winner and CEO of FreeFrom, is featured in this article from People Magazine. Thank you to People for recognizing the power of Sonya’s work and story, and lifting up our winners!

Meet our 2024 Elevate Prize winners! 10 incredible people and organizations from across the globe who are — quite literally!— changing the world.

From driving representation, to reimagining justice, protecting the environment, championing mental health, improving nutrition, caring for pets and the people who love them, and inspiring the changemakers of the future, they’re making a lasting impact on people’s lives – and that’s just the beginning. 

Zarlasht Halaimzai, Amna 
Zarlasht Halaimzai is the founder of Amna, an organization that champions refugees’ mental health – and rekindles joy. In seven years, Amna has reached an estimated 4 million people across Europe and South Asia. What’s one thing Zarlasht can’t stop thinking about right now? “How do we stop scaring ourselves and each other?”

Gayatri Datar, EarthEnable
Gayatri Datar co-founded EarthEnable, an organization that develops environmentally friendly building materials, with one goal in mind: to enable every African family to live in health, beauty, safety, and dignity. Though her work is hands-on, she makes time to think big: “The real answer to climate change is treating everything we co-exist with on the planet with as much care and empathy as we treat other humans.”

Wawira Nijru, Food For Education 
Wawira Nijru is the Executive Director of Food for Education, an organization that improves nutrition by providing subsidized nutritious meals to primary school children in Kenya. “No child should be asked to learn on an empty stomach, yet nearly 90% of Africa’s children do not benefit from a minimum acceptable diet,” she told us. “We are creating the blueprint for scalable, cost-efficient school feeding in Africa.”

Sonya Passi, FreeFrom
“Trust survivors. There are no shortcuts,” says Sonya Passi, the Founder & CEO of FreeFrom, an organization dedicated to creating a community where survivors of intimate partner violence are able to build the wealth and financial security necessary to support their individual, intergenerational, and community healing—enabling them to thrive. 

Mpindi Abaas, Media Challenge Initiative 
“Our vision is clear: Make Good News Famous,” says Mpindi Abaas, co-founder & CEO,  Media Challenge Initiative. The organization, which focuses on inspiring the next generation of journalists in Africa, fulfills their mission to drive positive change “through working with young journalists and storytellers who believe that good and solutions-oriented journalism can make the world a better place.”

Melissa Malzkuhn, Motion Light Lab
Melissa Malzkuhn, the director of Motion Light Lab, is inspired by the potential of Deaf children, who are “tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers, innovators and friends.” Her goal? “To dismantle the ableist attitudes and make way for a limitless, open, interesting world where every human being belongs.”

Dr. Kwan Stewart, Project Street Vet
Dr. Kwan Stewart’s organization, Project Street Vet, is dedicated to treating pets whose families are experiencing or at risk of homelessness on the streets of Los Angeles. What does he want to make famous? ”Kindness and the power of giving back. It not only serves the person (or pet) you’re serving—but it’s spiritual food for you as well.” 

Daniel Forkkio, Represent Justice
Daniel Forkkio, CEO of Represent Justice, is using the power of the media to reimagine and transform the justice system, and turning stories into action. “As we enter an election year, over 4.5 million individuals living with a felony conviction still can’t vote despite living as productive, tax-paying members of society across the country. Their lack of political power is deeply tied to their lack of narrative power – it’s time for a change.”

Isabelle Kamariza, Solid’Africa
“Nutrition should be acknowledged as a fundamental right in healthcare,” says Isabelle Kamariza, President & Founder of Solid’Africa, an organization that provides aid to vulnerable patients in public hospitals in Rwanda. 

Sam Bencheghib, Sungai Watch
“We can stop plastic pollution from going into the ocean. It all starts in our rivers and everyone has a part to play in keeping them clean and plastic free.” That’s the mission of Sungai Watch and its co-founder Sam Bencheghib. His hope for 2024? That “eco-friendly consumer choices become the norm.” 

Awarded annually, the Prize recognizes ten best-in-class social impact leaders driving change around the world. It’s designed to maximize their impact, champion their organizations, and to Make Good Famous – to shift the culture and help create a world where more people are inspired to take action. Let’s hear it for these incredible changemakers!