Performer Yvonne Chaka Chaka became the first African woman to receive the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Crystal Award for artists who improve the world through their work, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday.
Chaka Chaka, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations’ Roll Back Malaria Partnership, was presented with the award during the opening ceremony of the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.
“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,” Hilde Schwab, co-founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, who presented the award, 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,” she said.
Previous winners of the award include actor Richard Gere, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, producer, composer and musician Quincy Jones, and singer Youssou N’Dour.
According to her acceptance speech, which was posted on her website, she had seen a global apartheid in accessing health services and internationally funded health programmes being frozen or scaled down because of the global financial crisis.
“The people least responsible for the crisis are paying for it with their lives.”
They had almost no access to health services, missing out on medical advances and dying of treatable diseases.
“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.”
Chaka Chaka, who hails from Dobsonville, south-west of Johannesburg, has produced over 20 albums, with hits such as Umqombothi, and Thank You Mr DJ, and was recently in a documentary film, A Motherland Tour — A Journey of African Women.
This took her on a world tour to promote the successes of those engaged in the daily battle against HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
At the end of 2011, she and fellow Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador N’Dour recorded Proud to Be for Interpol to raise public awareness of the dangers of fake medicines.
Close to her heart
She became involved in the malaria campaign after one of her back-up singers, Phumzile Ntuli, died of malaria in 2004.
Chaka Chaka was the first Goodwill Ambassador for the global Roll Back Malaria Partnership. She is also United Nations Childrens Fund goodwill ambassador for malaria in Africa, United Nations Millennium Development Goals envoy for Africa, and was the first ambassador for former president Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund.
President Jacob Zuma congratulated the singer on behalf of all South Africans.
“In many respects, Yvonne Chaka Chaka has been a true ambassador of our country, its culture and people. We applaud the wonderful work she does promoting quality health care and other social development issues in the continent. We are immensely proud that the World Economic Forum has today recognised her in this way,” said Zuma in Davos.– Sapa