Change Champions and the Sussexes

“Giving an eco-award to Harry and Meghan? Why??”

That’s what we’ve been hearing from some people who have read headlines about our Change Champion awards. We understand why they’re saying it. Here’s the real situation, and why we made the decision we did.

The Change Champions

The Sussexes have received just one of nine awards we’ve given out to mark World Population Day 2021. They have attracted the attention, but we’re delighted that many of the media stories about their award have also highlighted winners who would never have received attention otherwise.

Those are people like Natsiraishe Maritsa, a teenager taking action against child marriage in Zimbabwe, and Wendo Aszed, whose organisation Dandelion Africa helps some of the most vulnerable women, children and communities in the world.

These people deserve recognition, and if a little of the spotlight trained on the Sussexes falls on them, that’s a great outcome. It’s our privilege to support and publicise the amazing work they do, and we’re proud too that the £500 prize accompanying each award – which goes to their nominated charity, not the individuals – is going to do so much good. Please check out all the winners here.

Making a difference

The Sussexes are lucky to be able to choose the size of their family. Not everyone is.

270 million women worldwide have an unmet need for family planning. They have no choice over the size of family they have. More than half of women in low-income countries don’t have the freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies.

That’s why we campaign for the richest countries to give proper levels of overseas aid for effective family planning, and why we support grassroots organisations addressing these challenges on the ground. Please support those campaigns.  

Gender inequality graphic

Why the Sussexes?

When probably the most famous couple in the world say they choose to stop at two, they help to popularise and normalise that choice. We know in the UK, for instance, that about a quarter of all people want to have more than two children. Everyone is entitled and has a right to the family size they choose, and that should never be limited by anyone else.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t recognise that when people in high-consuming countries like the UK have bigger families, that has a hugely disproportionate effect on the planet, because of the amount we consume and the emissions we produce.

At Population Matters, we’re proud to celebrate the choice to have a smaller family, and it’s a vital part of our job to communicate those advantages to people. Our statement supporting the award to the Sussexes did just that, reaching literally millions of people through the media coverage it received. We hope it has contributed to a long term discussion about family size.

For people who are considering the future size of their family, we also have information about the choice to have smaller families, alternative families, or no biological children at all, and lots of testimonies from people who have already made that decision.

the vital other changes

Our award to the Sussexes was solely on the basis of their family size choice, as our statement (quoted in much of the media) makes clear. Choosing a small family is far from the end of the matter. Those of us who are rich in global terms need to cut our consumption radically if we’re to save our planet. At Population Matters, we don’t just talk about families. We also speak out for personal changes in the way we consume, and for the kind of global justice that addresses why some are so rich and others so poor.

The richest have the greatest responsibility, both to change and campaign for change. That’s certainly the case with the very wealthy, such as the Sussexes, but applies to all of us who live lives of comfort in high-income countries. That’s one reason we also gave a Change Champion award to the Footprint Calculator, which gives all of us the opportunity to see the impact our personal choices on consumption are.

We don’t commend the Sussexes for their carbon footprint, and never have. Giving them this award is a reflection of something very positive they have done, not an endorsement of other choices they have made. The award is not for having two children, it is for publicly stating that they are limiting their family to two children, and identifying the environment as one of the factors in that decision. In so doing, they have stimulated a much needed debate on this subject.

The big changes

Please explore our website to find out more about population, consumption and what needs to happen to bring about better lives for the most vulnerable, and a safer world for us all to live in. In particular, find out about the powerful, equitable and empowering solutions which our Change Champions have been recognised for.


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