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Sir David Attenborough and Malala win World Population Day awards

10 July 2023, immediate use

British living legend, youth climate campaigner in Niger, and TikTok evangelist for the childfree life among those recognised in charity’s awards

To mark the UN’s annual World Population Day on July 11th, campaigning charity Population Matters is again giving its annual Change Champions awards to individuals and organisations across the globe for their progressive, effective and brave work promoting rights, defending the environment and enlightening the public about the challenges we face and the solutions that are available.

The most high-profile winners are Sir David Attenborough and Malala Yousafzai.

Sir David is a longstanding patron of Population Matters, saying:

“I support Population Matters because I think if we keep on growing, we’re not only going to damage nature, but we’re likely to see more and more inequality and human suffering.” 

Malala has been awarded for her dedicated work to promote education and empowerment of women and girls – and also for making the connection between that and climate change, stating in a Chatham House webinar in 2021 that:

“When girls are educated and when they stay in schools they get married later in their lives, then they have less children and that helps us to reduce the impacts of climate change that the population increase brings.” 

The awards also highlight individuals and organisations whose amazing work sometimes receives little attention beyond their own communities. Other recipients include:

  • Nafitatou Nouhou Osseini, a climate activist from Niger who works with youth campaigners and educators to promote environmental awareness and action
  • Ugandan gorilla conservationist, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, whose organisation promotes biodiversity protection by actively supporting the health and wellbeing of the human communities who live close to the gorillas
  • Bright New World, a children’s book providing a colourful, inspiring vision of a happy, sustainable planet
  • The Overpopulation Podcast, which explores the impacts and drivers of unsustainable populationand consumption growth through interviews with world-leading experts.
  • Sheila Kay, a TikTok influencer whose post about the joys of her childfree life has garnered more than three million views
  • John Vidal, the former environment editor of The Guardian for challenging the taboo on linking population and climate change

A full list and further details of all nine recipients is included below. Each recipient has received a uniquely designed Change Champion award from Population Matters made from recycled plastic, and a £250 donation to the charity or cause of their choice.

Comments from four winners:

Young Campaigner, Nafitatou Nouhou Osseini is a member of Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (JVE) Niger. She says:

“I am very honoured by this distinction, and it confirms that ‘with small individual actions, we can contribute to collective change. Let’s be the change’.”

Shining a Light winner Cindy Forde, says:

“The fact that we can solve so many of our pressing challenges by inclusion, respect and kindness to women and girls is a glorious message to share with children, educators and families. Population Matters’s work lays the foundations for how we can thrive as a human family. I am delighted to help shine a light on this and to win this wonderful award.”

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka says:

“I am greatly honored to receive this award and recognition from Population Matters for our work to promote integrated approaches to Population, Health and the Environment.”

Nandita Bajaj and Alan Ware of US-based Population Balance produce the Online Campaign award-winner, The Overpopulation Podcast. They said:

“We are deeply honored to receive this Champion Choice award from Population Matters in recognition and celebration of The Overpopulation Podcast. Through interviews with expert guests on subjects such as pronatalism, ecocentrism, and degrowth, we create a safe environment within which to have these bold, compassionate, and solution-oriented conversations that are centered on the principles of justice and sustainability.”

Population Matters Head of Campaigns Alistair Currie said:

“On World Population Day, we should celebrate the lives of all eight billion of us, but also remember that the number itself represents a failure to deliver the lives that everyone deserves. If we had done a better job over the last few decades in empowering women, meeting the unmet need for contraception, providing everyone with education and tackling poverty, we simply wouldn’t have eight billion people on our crowded planet today. 

“But there is good news – progress is being made and the recipients of Population Matters’ Change Champions awards can inspire us all. Action to make the world a better place comes in many different forms, from many different places, and our awards celebrate that. We’re proud to honour those who make a difference, especially to shine a light on those whose achievements and efforts remain mostly unrecognised. We hope these good news stories will give people inspiration and motivation in these difficult times.”

Population Matters is a UK-based charity campaigning internationally to secure a sustainable human population through ethical, choice-based means, to protect the natural environment and improve people’s lives. Acting on abundant and authoritative scientific evidence of the impact of human population growth on crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss, it promotes sustainable consumption and the choice to have a smaller family. PM campaigns in support of women’s empowerment, modern family planning, universal high quality education, and poverty alleviation – all proven, positive solutions to unsustainable population growth.



Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications


T: +44 (0)208 123 9170


Lifetime award: Sir David Attenborough. In addition to his patronage of Population Matters, Sir David has also highlighted population issues in his Royal Society lecture of 2011, 2009 BBC Horizon documentary, How many people can live on planet Earth? and his 2020 Netflix series, Our Planet.  

Women’s Champion: Malala Yousafzai. Nobel-laureate and tireless education campaigner, Mala transformed the trauma of her injuries at the hands of religious extremists into a worldwide movement for girls’ education. Like Malala, Population Matters supports education because it is every person’s right and because the empowerment it brings to girls and women will benefit people everywhere. We are also pleased to see Malala acknowledging that it has a role in both mitigating climate change, and empowering girls, women and communities to lead the campaign against it. The 2021 Malala Foundation report A greener, fairer future stated “If every girl was able to exercise her sexual and reproductive health and rights through quality education and had access to modern contraception, it could reduce total emissions.”

Young Campaigner: Nafitatou Nouhou Osseini. Nafitatou has been involved in JVE Niger since 2017, and is committed to issues of environmental protection, climate change, promotion of sustainable development, women’s and children’s rights, gender equality, peace and democracy in Africa. She is currently in charge of JVE Niger’s Ecology and Consciousness Program, for the mobilisation of young people and teachers around environmental education in schools.

Earth Champion: Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka. Dr Kalema-Zikusoka is a wildlife vet and founder in 2003 of Ugandan organisation Conservation Through Public Health, which promotes biodiversity conservation by enabling people, gorillas and other wildlife to coexist through improving their health and livelihoods in and around Africa’s protected areas. In 2022, she said“Family planning was a solution because people were having more children than they wanted to … It was affecting women’s health, increasing poverty and preventing children from going to school … And with more mouths to feed, they would go into the forest to collect firewood or to poach. …  For women, [family planning] gave them more control over their lives, over their bodies. For men, it meant better balancing of the family budget. It became a win-win situation.”

Shining a Light Award (best film, book or TV programme)Bright New World: how to make a happy planet by Cindy Forde (illustrated by Bethany Lord). Cindy Forde is the founder of Planetari, an organisation dedicated to worldwide environmental education. She has worked with leaders across sectors including the UN, government, NGOs, finance, business, technology and education. She was CEO of the Cambridge Science Centre and Managing Director of the Blue Marine Foundation.  Bright New World offers an attractively illustrated glimpse into a better future – “a world in which today’s children have grown up and tackled the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems.” Its optimistic spirit and grounding in real science and active projects provides a vital alternative to pessimism over our future.

Online Campaign: The Overpopulation Podcast. The podcast is produced by US-based organisation, Population Balance, which offer education and solutions to address the impacts of human overpopulation and overconsumption on the planet, people, and animals. Over more than 20 episodes so far, the podcast has explored critical but often under-reported issues by interviewing world-leading experts on a diverse and fascinating range of subjects, including pronatalism, alternative economics, patriarchy, fertility decline and animal cultures.

Media Article: John Vidal, The GuardianThe former Guardian environment editor addressed the taboo about discussing population and climate change in his November 2022 article entitled It should not be controversial to say a population of 8bn people will have a grave effect on the climate.  The article states Despite the fact that the several billion more people expected to be alive in 70 years’ time will put more pressure on resources and will produce far more emissions, the population explosion is yet again being ignored, sidestepped or denied by world leaders… The generations-long argument between those who uniquely blame overpopulation and those who maintain that consumption is the biggest contribution to the climate emergency must be ditched.”

Family Choice: Sheila Kay Known as AuntieSheilaKay! on TikTok, Sheila posted a joyful video about her childfree choice which has garnered 3 million views and 480,000 likes. Her passionate, positive message has struck a chord with people the world over. In the three-minute video she says, “It has meant a life of complete and total freedom, a life of joy!”

Population Matters Campaigner: Rupert Rivett A longstanding PM supporter, Rupert spreads the word about population by posting polite short messages and links to relevant PM content under articles and opinion pieces on Twitter on an almost daily basis. In seeking out new audiences and opportunities to open the population conversation, Rupert is a patient, dedicated and creative supporter of the cause. He is also a professional photographer, and has undertaken event photography for Population Matters. 

Details of 2022 Change Champions here, and winners in 2021 here.

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