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Magsaysay award winners transform lives, societies

A Filipino fisherman, Bangladeshi scientist and Pakistani social entrepreneur are honored for their service

Magsaysay award winners transform lives, societies

Roberto Ballon, a fisherman and community environmentalist in the Philippines, is among five winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award. (Photo: Ramon Magsaysay Foundation) 

A fisherman and community environmentalist in the Philippines, a scientist from Bangladesh and a social entrepreneur from Pakistan are among the winners of the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed Asia’s Nobel Prize.

The board of trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation revealed the five winners via a virtual announcement on Aug. 30.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in 1958 in memory of the third president of the Philippines. Each year it honors individuals and organizations in Asia who transform lives and societies by manifesting “selfless service.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards were postponed last year.

This year’s winners are:

— Roberto Ballon, 53, is a Filipino fisherman and community environmentalist popularly known as Ka Dodoy. He has been recognized for “his inspiring determination in leading his fellow fisherfolk to revive a dying fishing industry by creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come, and his shining example of how everyday acts of heroism can truly be extraordinary and transformative.”

— Steven Muncy, a 64-year-old American, has supported refugees and displaced communities in Southeast Asia since 1989 though his NGO, Community and Family Service International (CFSI). He has been awarded for “his unshakeable belief in the goodness of man that inspires in others the desire to serve; his lifelong dedication to humanitarian work, refugee assistance and peace building; and his unstinting pursuit of dignity, peace and harmony for people in exceptionally difficult circumstances in Asia.”

— Firdausi Qadri, 70, is a Bangladeshi scientist with the Dhaka-based International Center for Diarrheal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB) and founder of the Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives. She has been recognized for “her passion and lifelong devotion to the scientific profession; her vision of building the human and physical infrastructure that will benefit the coming generation of Bangladeshi scientists, women scientists in particular; and her untiring contributions to vaccine development, advanced biotechnological therapeutics and critical research that has been saving millions of precious lives.”

— Muhammad Amjad Saqib, 64, is a former bureaucrat, social entrepreneur, author and founder of Akhuwat, the world’s largest Islamic microfinance organization. He has been honored for “his intelligence and compassion that enabled him to create the largest microfinance institution in Pakistan; his inspiring belief that human goodness and solidarity will find ways to eradicate poverty; and his determination to stay with a mission that has already helped millions of Pakistani families.”

— Watchdoc Indonesia is recognized for Emerging Leadership in an Organization “for its highly principled crusade for an independent media organization, its energetic use of investigative journalism, documentary filmmaking and digital technology in its effort to transform Indonesia’s media landscape, and its commitment to a vision of the people themselves as makers of media and shapers of their own world.”

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Ramon Magsaysay Foundation president Susan B. Afan said the foundation wishes to raise awareness, collective advancement of important causes to improve lives and transform societies across Asia.

She said the laureates have demonstrated “moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalized. Indeed, they offer us inspiring examples of vision, leadership, persistence and success.”

A formal ceremony to confer the awards to winners will be held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila on Nov. 28 provided the pandemic situation allows, she added.

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