Liberia: Satta Sheriff Wins 2021 Goalkeepers Global Award by the Gates Foundation

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MONROVIA — Satta F. Sheriff’s childhood was a challenge – but like many children growing up in Liberia’s Kakata City, Margibi County, opportunities were often few and far between.

“I grew up in an environment where you have to struggle for everything to get what you want or else the society will knock you down,” she says.

“As a child, I knew what I wanted and pursued it with full energy. I really didn’t know how important education was but I drew strength from watching great people. It made me promise myself to also one day be like them.”

Satta is definitely on the right track. Recently, she was one of four winners of the 2021 Goalkeepers Global Award by the Gates Foundation.

It is a special annual award given to young people who have been doing outstanding work to break down the barriers that keep children out of education.

But that’s only one aspect of Satta’s remarkable dedication to helping young people.

“To God be the glory, I have participated and contributed in reaching out to over 10,000 lives positively through the several local and international NGOs I volunteer for,” she says.

Satta, the youngest recipient of the award, paid homage to her fellow youths. “This award belongs to hundreds of young people that I have the opportunity to work with over the years, including thousands of children, survivors and victims of sexual abuse in Liberia. I think the award doesn’t only belong to me, it belongs to the young people of Liberia,” she says.

Asked how she feels winning the award, Satta replied: “It’s exciting, but I don’t feel any different, nothing much has changed about me. I know this award is huge, and I see it as an opportunity to bring attention to the issues that are affecting women and girls in Liberia and to shine a light on the work of young people in Liberia, especially my organization Action for Justice & Human Rights.”

“So, for me as a winner, I see this award as something for the young people of Liberia, for the many young people on the frontline, everyday demanding change, and social justice. And the people who took up the challenge to join us to ask the Liberian President for accountability and to declare rape as a national emergency. It is for the many survivors and victims of sexual abuse who have been denied access to justice by the justice system.

She said winning the award means a lot for social justice and rights activism in Liberia. “It is a challenge, a lot of people are watching me now, I hope the campaign award will help take my work to another level. There are just so many amazing people and opportunities that come along with this award, I intend to reach out to these people and ask for support and collaborate because there is just so much to be done in Liberia right now and we can’t do it alone,” she says.

“And with my newfound international recognition it will help so much. In terms of social justice, I am just going to continue speaking out, and remain focus on the work we do at AJHR. Now that AJHR work has been internationally recognized, our worked has become more credible and legitimized. This is a bold opportunity, it’s an opportunity for me to not be afraid anymore to speak out and to continue to do the things we are passionate about at Action for Justice and Human Rights.”

Beyond the award, Satta, having been recognized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a human rights defender, sees her triumph as an opportunity to lure more support for future endeavors.

“This award is going to impact and support survivors of sexual abuse, and everyone affected by the harsh consequences of human rights violation in Liberia,” she added.

Asked how will the award impact her organization and those who work with her, Satta responded: “I really want the people I work with to get some visibility because I am not working alone. And a lot of these other young people too need attention because some of them are direct victims of sexual abuse and I want to support them beyond what we are currently doing.”

“I really hope that this award will provide survivors support and inspire them to know that AJHR is bigger than all of us and is for a good cause. We need a rehabilitation home in Liberia, and it starts with us.”

With a key message to fellow young people in Liberia, Satta said: “To the young people who might be reading this story, I just want to say don’t give up, don’t be scared to take up space.”

“You never know whose watching, just continue to do your best and be honest about your work. Remember to never underestimate the power of your voice. Don’t be afraid to speak out and call out your government. It’s just about starting, taking a stand, and having the courage to believe in yourself. Positivity is key,” she added.

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