Is the World Getting Better? Is there Hope?

Esther Ngumbi
5 min readSep 24, 2017


On Wednesday, September, 20th, I participated in the first-ever Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Goalkeepers event in New York City. This event was attended by many of our world’s amazing and powerful change makers, thinkers, philanthropists and doers including Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trevor Noah, Nobel Prize Laureates Leymah Gbowee and Malala Yousafzai. Together with other attendees, we learned about the work and ideas of these amazing leaders-all of which will help to meet the global Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

One of the recurring questions that these goalkeepers tackled was this: Is our world getting better? Another one: Is there hope?

It is hard not to ask these questions, especially; when you consider our everyday global challenges including climate change, conflict, refugee crises, famines, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters that come with a changing climate.

But, the answer is: YES there is hope. As proof, throughout the conference, these speakers shared the progress we’ve made in solving these global challenges.

So what were some of the main points shared by these amazing and powerful goalkeepers?

Melinda Gates

Gender equality is a prerequisite for progress. Women need to be included, supported and empowered. They make up 50 percent of the population and leaving them behind means we won’t be able to make the progress and attain the Sustainable Development Goals.

Nobel Prize Laureate Leyma Gbowee

Women-led grassroots movements and initiatives need to be tapped into and supported. Goalkeepers need to be authentic and creative in the way they package the issues and challenges. At the same, “experts” need to allow women to speak for themselves.

As a Food Security fellow with Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship — a program that empowers and elevates the voices of development experts from developing countries, allowing them to speak for themselves — I especially appreciated her message.

Nicholas Kristoff

We need to involve men as allies as we tackle women’s issues.

Justin Trudeau

Empower women because it is the best way to achieve change. Government officials and politicians must treat citizens as thoughtful adults.

Bill Gates

YES there is hope. The power of science and innovations and discoveries stemming from science have allowed us to tackle today’s global challenges.

As I watched innovators speak about game changing innovations like the MetaFridge — a reliable fridge that can preserve vaccines at the right temperatures for up to five days after the loss of electricity, allowing children in remote villages and countries that get frequent blackouts to get vaccinated, and Indigo — a cooler that allows community health workers to deliver vaccines to children in the most remote villages, I, like Bill Gates was convinced there was hope. Furthermore, as a scientist and an inventor with three US patents, I know first-hand how to create innovation and see it matter.

President Obama

Today’s change is being driven by young people. Goalkeepers can maintain and sustain the progress made. As we work to attain 2030 goals, there will be pushback, rejections and resistance but we must keep pushing forward. We must be relentless, optimistic and infectious. We must not be slowed down.

Share your stories because organizing for action starts with a story. We must learn to tell our stories. But at the same time, we must listen to the stories of the people next to us, our neighbors, our community members and other people that do not look like us. As we listen to each other’s stories, bonds and connections are made and these stories can move us into action.

As an alumnae of The Moth — a program that trains change makers and activists like Bina Maseno about the art of effective story-telling — I felt inspired to keep sharing my story.

The media must tell positive stories and showcase progress and everyday heroes effecting meaningful change globally. Further, goalkeepers must work together because no one can do it alone. The global challenges of today require partnerships.

Ending the conference on a high note, we were reminded that we all have the power to be activists. We were urged to rise up and create the change we want to see. By making the issues personal through stories, Bill and Melinda Gates CEO urged goalkeepers to use their talent, skills, power, and privilege to effect change.

It was indeed a beautiful day. Thank you, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I appreciated the full-ride scholarship to attend one of the most thought provoking meetings. As a scientist, a change-maker, a mentor, an educator, a passionate advocate, an optimist, and a goalkeeper, I left the meeting hopeful and convinced that our world is getting better. Yes, we can solve our global changes individually and collectively.



Esther Ngumbi

Post Doc Auburn University, PhD Entomology, hunger activist, AAUW Alumnae, Aspen Food Security Fellow, Founder Young Thinkers& Spring Break Kenya &OYESKA GREENS