WEF award for Yvonne Chaka Chaka

26 January 2012

South African singer and humanitarian Yvonne Chaka Chaka has received the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Crystal Award for artists who use their talents to improve the state of the world.

Chaka Chaka was presented with the award by Hilde Schwab, chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, during the opening ceremony of the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

French filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Luc Besson and Japanese-American classical violinist Midori also received the prestigious award.

Using her voice to ‘influence those who can act’

“For many years, Yvonne has used her voice to draw attention to the causes that will change the lives of millions, from ending apartheid to improving maternal and child health,” Schwab said in a statement.

“Yvonne has clearly understood her opportunities to do good and the access her powerful voice allows, through both song and conversation, to reach and influence those who can act.”

Schwab said the Crystal Award was “an appeal to think about fundamental values and purpose in life”. The list of former winners includes actors Richard Gere, Michael Douglas and Emma Thompson, Chinese-American cellist Yo Yo Ma, Opera singer Jose Carreras, composer and musician Quincy Jones, and singer Youssou N’Dour.

Chaka Chaka has become a role model in Africa through her work in promoting literacy and the rights of women and children. She has founded her own charity, the Princess of Africa Foundation, and as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations’ Roll Back Malaria Partnership has campaigned extensively for medication and bed nets to help end malaria.

‘A global apartheid in accessing health services’

In her award acceptance speech on Wednesday, Chaka Chaka said that growing up in South Africa under apartheid had taught her “that giving people their dignity is vital to building kinder, fairer societies which are not only possible but critical to creating a safe and secure world.”

Working as a goodwill ambassador for Unicef and the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and as a Millennium Development Goal envoy for Africa, “I have seen that there is a global apartheid in accessing health services,” Chaka Chaka said.

“Men, women and children are dying unnecessarily of preventable and treatable diseases. They have almost no access to basic health services and are trapped in a cycle of poverty and sickness. Many communities in Africa and other poor regions of the world are tragically missing out on recent medical advances.”

She told the elite gathering of politicians and executives that investing in health was “a no-brainer – it benefits individuals, communities, governments businesses and economies alike.

“We here in this room are the global political and business elite, and we have the power, the money and the knowledge to ensure that all people have access to prevention and treatment services to lead productive lives. We know what works, now we need to make it happen.”

SAinfo reporter