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A year in review: Finding hope in 2020

Even in a difficult year, there were reasons for hope.

      What gives you hope for 2021?

      There’s no denying that 2020 was a difficult year. The spread of the coronavirus — and with it economic collapse and staggering death tolls — defined the year. But as we head into 2021, vaccines are being rolled out in multiple countries. Some communities, and even entire countries, have successfully controlled outbreaks, thanks to extensive testing, strict lockdowns and physical distancing. A global burden is beginning to lift.

      We at Doha Debates have had the privilege of amplifying the voices of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. We find hope and inspiration in those who fight for racial justice, environmental justice, disability justice and human rights. Join us in celebrating those who have dedicated themselves to solving the world’s toughest problems — even during a year where everything was more difficult — and whose fortitude and hard work inspire us to look for solutions in our own lives and communities.

      From all of us at Doha Debates, we wish you a happy holiday season if you celebrate, goodwill and peace as we close out this difficult year and a challenge to look for hope in 2021.

      #SolvingIt for the environment

      Archana Soreng is an Indian researcher and sustainability advocate. She works to document, preserve and promote the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous communities through song, photography, video and interactive activities. She is also part of the UN Secretary-General’s new Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. Illustration by Lena Dakessian Halteh.

      Paloma Costa Oliveira is a Brazilian climate activist. She founded Free the Future and Ciclimáticos, a bicyclists’ collective that tracks climate change’s impact on vulnerable communities. She is also part of the Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, which will meet regularly with the UN Secretary-General to help tackle the climate crisis. Illustration by Susana Castro.

      Ralyn “Lilly” Satidtanasarn is a Thai teen environmental activist. Lilly has been meeting with government officials and retail executives to ban single-use plastics since she was 8 years old. Thailand, which is the sixth-largest global contributor to ocean pollution, outlawed plastic bags in supermarkets in January. Illustration by Miriam el-Quessny.

      Fionn Ferreira is an Irish student and scientist who developed a way to remove microplastics from bodies of water. In his experiment, he added a nontoxic magnetic liquid, called a ferrofluid, to water that had microplastics. He then extracted the microplastics using a magnet. His project won the top prize at the 2019 Google Science Fair. Illustration by Emmen Ahmed.

      #SolvingIt for global health

      Several major drug companies recently announced promising data for three coronavirus vaccine candidates. The developments, from AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, are the culmination of months of concerted efforts by the research community to help control the global coronavirus pandemic. To all the scientists and trial volunteers who have devoted countless hours to reach this moment — thank you. Illustration by Emmen Ahmed.

      Dr. Marie Roseline Bélizaire is a Haitian epidemiologist and community health advocate who helps fight disease outbreaks in conflict zones. She’s tackled everything from Ebola to HIV, and is currently helping the WHO’s COVID-19 response in the Central African Republic implementing prevention strategies in high-risk communities. Illustration by Aya Mobaydeen.

      Frontline health care workers are working around the clock to help COVID-19 patients. Nurses, lab technicians, medical assistants, paramedics and doctors are all are sacrificing time away from their loved ones and risking their own health to help their communities. You can do your part to help these heroes by following safety practices recommended by your local health authorities. Illustration by Emmen Ahmed.

      Chef José Andrés is a Spanish-American chef and the founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides meals in areas affected by disasters. In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, he has converted some of his Washington, D.C. and New York City restaurants into “community kitchens” to feed people who need a meal and may be unable to afford it.

      #SolvingIt for a more inclusive, accessible world

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      My Disability Justice: Journeys of empowerment

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      My Disability Justice: The activist

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      My Disability Justice: The dancer

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      My Disability Justice: The painter

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      #DearWorldLive: Disability Justice: Breaking down barriers

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      #DearWorldLive: Addressing Disability Rights During COVID-19

      Nawaal Akram is a Qatari comedian, model, athlete and disability rights campaigner. She was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy when she was 6, and started using a wheelchair six years later. At the age of 10, Nawaal was denied rights to an education because of her physical disability, and in the years since she has strived to advocate for the rights of education for people with disabilities on social media. Nawaal challenges stereotypes and breaks barriers for people with disabilities. In 2016, she founded Muscular Dystrophy Qatar to raise awareness of the condition. She made the BBC 100 Women list in 2017. Illustration by Anna Kozdon.

      Antoine Hunter is an award-winning African American and Indigenous deaf dancer, actor, educator and advocate. Antoine founded Urban Jazz Dance Company to provide opportunities for deaf artists, and he also produces the annual Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival in San Francisco. Illustration by Susana Castro.

      Alice Wong is an American disability rights activist, author and consultant. She founded Disability Visibility Project, an online platform committed to amplifying disability representation in media, and served as a member of the National Council on Disability under President Barack Obama. Illustration by María Victoria Rodriguez.

      #SolvingIt for education, freedom and human rights

      Mohamad al-Jounde is a Syrian refugee who founded a school for refugees in Lebanon. When he was just 12, he recruited volunteers to build classrooms and teach. As the school grew, it began offering literacy classes for adults. Mohamad won the Children’s Peace Prize in 2017 for his work. Illustration by Miriam el-Quessny.

      Kennedy Odede is a Kenyan social entrepreneur. He co-founded SHOFCO, a grassroots organization that provides critical services, education and leadership development to informal settlements in Kenya. SHOFO was awarded the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2018, which Kennedy is using as an endowment for the organization. Illustration by Ariel Sinha.

      Aya Chebbi is a Pan-African activist and the first ever African Union Special Envoy on youth. She gained international attention while blogging during the Tunisian Revolution in 2011. Through her activism, she seeks to mobilize African youth to realize their collective power, achieve gender equality, and change negative rhetoric about Africa. Illustration by Emmen Ahmed.

      Omal Khair is a Rohingya refugee and a media fellow with Fortify Rights and Doha Debates. She has been documenting her life in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar for the past year, showing how refugees deal with the unique challenges of their living conditions — including monsoons and the current coronavirus pandemic. Illustration by Kent Hernández.

      Joshua Wong is a Hong Kong activist and political organizer who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement for more transparent elections. Since then, he’s been leading efforts to promote democratic and progressive values in Hong Kong. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Wong is using the internet and video games to stage virtual protests. Illustration by Miriam el-Quessny.

      #SolvingIt for racial justice

      Malone Mukwende is a Zimbabwe-born medical student and author who is addressing the lack of training on how medical symptoms can manifest in darker skin tones. In 2020, he created a guide titled “Mind the Gap: A Handbook of Clinical Signs in Black and Brown Skin” to combat this knowledge gap in the medical community. Illustration by Susana Castro.

      Since protests began, Black Lives Matter demonstrators have gotten various government officials to review or ban the use of chokeholds, review police budgets and remove racist statues in public spaces. The Black Lives Matter movement seeks to right historic racial and systemic injustices against Black people. Illustration by Shirien Damra.

      Jay-Ann Lopez founded Black Girl Gamers to address the lack of black female representation in gaming. She empowers black women and girls to connect with each other and enjoy playing. Jay-Ann told Glamour UK that she believes gaming can be helpful during the coronavirus pandemic by creating a badly needed escapist retreat.

      #SolvingIt for gender equality

      Amika George is a human rights activist from London who is fighting to end period poverty. She founded Free Periods after learning that students were missing school because they were unable to afford menstrual products. Because of her leadership, all state-funded schools in England can now order free period products the Department for Education. Illustration by Anna Kozdon.

      Havana Chapman-Edwards is a gun control and girls’ education advocate. She was the only student at her school to participate in the 2018 National School Walkout against gun violence, which was widely covered in the media. Prior to that, she had started a book club and donated books with black protagonists to her school. In 2018, she made Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 list. Illustration by Emmen Ahmed.

      Rayanne Cristine Maximo Franco is an Indigenous Baré activist from Brazil. She’s an Indigenous women’s rights advocate, is active in the fight against the Amazon’s deforestation, and, in collaboration with UN Women, helped organize the first national agenda for Indigenous women in Brazil. Illustration by Susana Castro.