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10 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Working on Poverty Eradication

Apr 05, 2023
10 min read

The Ramon Magsaysay Awardees and Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations designed the Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked objectives designed to serve as a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and into the future.” But even before the UN formulated the SDGs, the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees, recipients of Asia’s premier prize and highest honor, have been working on these pressing issues of human, environmental and global development.

In this new series, we will list down some notable Ramon Magsaysay Awardees who have addressed and continue to work on humanity’s collective goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 1:
End poverty in all its forms everywhere

The United Nations has identified five “outcome targets” as indicators that we have achieved progress globally. They are: eradication of extreme poverty; reduction of all poverty by half; implementation of social protection systems; ensuring equal rights to ownership, basic services, technology and economic resources; and the building of resilience to environmental, economic and social disasters.

Since 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award has been bestowed upon transformative leaders who have passionately and tirelessly worked on poverty alleviation and eradication in their respective societies and across the region.

MARY RUTNAM, a Canadian doctor, is among the first recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award. She has shown deep concern for others, especially the poor in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) through her involvement in the Social Services League of Ceylon where she collected data on the poor, trained them in social services and improved their conditions through programs like a daycare center for working mothers, and a welfare center among many others.

Bishop ANTONIO FORTICH and BENJAMIN GASTON, a scion of a political family in Negros Occidental, Philippines collaborated on improving the lives of sugarcane farmers in their region. They established Dacongcogon Producers Cooperative Marketing Association, Inc. to enhance the people’s economic vitality. They jointly received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1973 for “their engineering of an experiment in rural development giving small, indebted farmers in Dacongcogon Valley control of their livelihood and new hope.”

Often called the “Father of Microfinance,” MUHAMMAD YUNUS pioneered the concept of microcredit through the Grameen Bank. Through these small loans which are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans, YUNUS and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development. Grameen Bank is currently present in 81678 (94%) villages in the country and provides services to nearly 45 million people (including family members) through 10.27 million borrower members.

Fr. JOHN VINCENT DALY and PAUL JEONG-GU JEI are yet another tandem who have collaborated to alleviate poverty, this time in Seoul, South Korea. The two teamed up and established Bogumjahri Village in 1977, Handok Housing in 1979, and Mokhwa Village in 1985 to address the housing needs of many forced evictions of the capital’s slum dwellers. During the height of forced evictions in the latter part of the '80s, they lived sharing the joys and sorrows of the evictees.

JOCKIN ARPUTHAM was an Indian community leader and activist, known for his campaigning work of more than 40 years on issues related to slums and shanty towns. He was the Founder and President of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India. Through his coalition with other organizations, the alliance helped 1 million people in 15,000 slum dwellers-managed saving groups. Further they had secured land rights for 128,000 families, building over 20,000 toilets and 100,000 houses. The National Slum Dwellers Federation stated it had helped 60,000 families improve their housing situation in Mumbai.

A humble farmer from Southern Thailand, PRAYONG RONNARONG moved millions of rural workers from poverty to prosperity. He empowered rubber farmers in his area to process their rubber latex and trade their rubber sheets collectively through the Maireang Farmers’ Group. He received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for “leading fellow farmers in demonstrating that the model of self-reliant local enterprises, supported by active community learning, is the path to rural prosperity in Thailand.”

Born in 1946, KULANDEI FRANCIS is an activist, social worker, and the founder of the NGO Integrated Village Development Project in Tamil Nadu, India. It began with a series of small initiatives such as the establishment of night schools and a first aid center. The IVDP then began a micro-watershed programme that, over twenty two years, created a network of 331 check dams in sixty villages benefiting 40,000 people there. In 1989, the organization began establishing women's self-help groups (SHGs). By 2011, these numbered 8231 SHGs with 153,990 members with savings worth USD 40 million and a corpus fund of nearly USD 9 million.

Pakistani MUHAMMAD AMJAD SAQIB founded Akhuwat, an NGO founded on the Islamic principle of Mawakhat or solidarity. Akhuwat’s mission is simple and straightforward: to to alleviate poverty by empowering socially and economically marginalized segments of society through interest-free microfinance and education. Under SAQIB’s leadership, Akhuwat has disbursed over USD 700 million in microloans that has benefited over 5 million people.