The Asia Society honored nine extraordinary individuals and organizations at the fourth annual Asia Game Changer Awards in New York City, recognizing those who have made a positive and transformative difference throughout the world. Wasatch Academy senior, Sonita Alizadeh, was one of the nine honored for her outstanding advocacy efforts to empower females and to encourage the rethinking of demeaning and destructive traditions. Her award was presented to her by former First Lady, Laura Bush.
When Sonita was 16 years old; her mother came to her with the news that would turn her world upside down: Sonita was to be sold into marriage. Sonita fled her native Afghanistan to escape the arranged marriage. Sonita found a voice in music and began her path of advocacy through rapping about female empowerment.
Today, Sonita attends Wasatch Academy and is a passionate advocate for ending child marriage. She has shared the stage with heads of state, Nobel Laureates, renowned change makers, has helped develop a curriculum on child marriage for over one million students. She recently performed for the Gates Foundation. Her message about ending child marriage is reaching the highest levels of global leadership and civil society, and her story and vision has been shared worldwide. “If I can change [my parents’] minds with my music,” she says, “then maybe I can change the world.”
During the awards ceremony, Sonita performed a special English-language version of her rap in front of an astonished crowd. “It was an honor to watch Sonita receive such a prestigious award. She has worked hard for worldwide change,” stated Wasatch Academy Head of School, Joseph Loftin.
The Game Changer Awards, launched by the Asia Society in 2014, is designed to fill a vital gap, identifying and honoring true leaders who are making a positive contribution to the future of Asia. These awards are bestowed annually to individuals, organizations, and movements that have inspired, enlightened, and shown true leadership in areas that reflect the Asia Society’s core pillars of policy and business, arts and culture, and education.