Led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with Project Everyone, the Goalkeepers Awards programme identifies and highlights the stories of young activists, campaigners and innovators across the world, they elevate champions and recognise their actions that are progressing the Global Goals. 

The Goalkeepers Award programme rewards winners for their work and inspires more action and innovation at a time when it is needed most. Every year, three young leaders are honoured through three categories; the Campaign Award, the Progress Award and the Changemaker Award. 

The Campaign Award celebrates an individual that has raised awareness or built a community in support of a Global Goal-related cause, inspiring action and creating change. This year, the Campaign Award winner is Satta Sheriff, a Human Rights activist from Liberia. Read more about her story below.

Satta Sheriff calls her coming of age a “little girl’s journey,” but her mission and vision is anything but little, it’s gargantuan. Satta is the founder and executive director of Action for Justice and Human Rights (AJHR) – a youth-led non-governmental organisation in Liberia. As its name suggests, AJHR advocates for human rights but especially the rights of children and girls on issues of gender-based violence and child marriage.   

Satta lunged into human rights as a member of Daughters of the King – an adolescent girls group – that empowered her to speak out about a child marriage case. With the help of skilled social workers, she gained advocacy and media training while supporting rape survivors through peer-to-peer conversation. At a time when most people her age are just finding their voice, Satta was doing talk shows to discuss sensitive issues ranging from sexual abuse and harassment to HIV prevention. But she would soon learn that her own family’s story provided further fuel to her fight. After starting AJHR, she learned that her mother and aunt were both victims of child marriage, while another aunt was assaulted during the Liberian civil war. “I just need to continue doing this,” she said, “because at this point, I’m not just doing it for myself. I'm related to people who are directly affected by gender-based violence in Liberia.”  

And without missing a beat, the work continued. In response to the proliferation of rape cases during the pandemic in Liberia, Satta worked alongside the Affiliation of Child and Women Right Advocates to lobby the national government. Due to the actions of the group, Liberia's President declared rape a National Emergency in 2020, allocating a $4M budget and developing a national Sexual and Gender-Based Violence roadmap for Liberia. Today, Satta serves as President of the Affiliation of Women and Children Rights Advocates and she continues to follow-up and demand strong action until no child or women is a victim of sexual abuse. 

Education is at the heart of Satta’s work. Her work centres young people so that they can get an education because she understands its value, particularly for girls. She also uses education to inform her peers, community, and government leaders about a national crisis that threatens the safety of young people. In Satta’s world, advocacy work doesn’t happen behind a desk, it involves being vocal even when her views are questioned, and her adversaries are powerful. But most of all, it’s teaching others to have a zero tolerance for rape culture wherever it rears its head – in policy, on social media, and in entertainment.  “I think one of the main things we can do is to tell the story of survivors and victims of sexual abuse in Liberia,” she says. Making it personal is what Satta had to do, and she asks others, not just in Liberia, but around the world to do the same. 

To learn more about the Goalkeepers Awards and the Goalkeepers campaign, visit the website here.  

This blog was written by Sakena Washington, a lifelong storyteller from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She joined the Goalkeepers team this year as a creative content creator for the newsletter, website, and report. Follow her onLinkedIn.

This blog is part of a series that celebrates the winners of the Goalkeepers 2021 Awards. Check out our website and social channels for more updates.