Dubai ruler receives Mother Teresa Award for contributions to justice and peace

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was also recognised for his work protecting the environment

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, was presented with the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice in recognition of his contribution towards promotion of justice and peaceful co-existence.

He was recognised for his work in the UAE protecting the environment, preserving its natural resources, and making sustainable development a national priority.

Presenting the awards was Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, alongside Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's Court, and Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

All of my inventions align with the UAE’s sustainability goals
Mezna Al Mansouri, award winner

Members of the royal family, dignitaries, ministers and family members also attended the ceremony.

The Mother Teresa award is an annual event held to honour individuals and organisations that promote peace, equality and social justice. Each year celebrates a specific theme and this year it was “Environmental Sustainability”.

Dianna Cohen with her Mother Teresa Memorial Award. Victor Besa / The National

The awards ceremony was held for the first time in the UAE, at Manarat Al Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi, under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, President of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood and Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation.

In a speech on behalf of Sheikha Fatima, Reem Al Falasi, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, said: “We all know what we have to do to promote the concept of environmental sustainability, which is celebrated by the Mother Teresa prize this year. We must recognise not only as a local community, but as an international community the challenges and threats to the problems caused by human activities in the environment and face the problems created by the increasing and often extravagant human demands.

“We must make more efforts and creative initiatives to reduce risks to humans and set starting points to understand the environment and achieve the optimal balance between growth and preservation and sustainability of its resources, to ensure a clean and healthy environment to provide a quality of life for the current and future generations so that they enjoy stability and social well-being,” Ms Al Falasi said.

Among the 14 honoured recipients is Emirati Mezna Al Mansouri, 18, who has had more than a dozen inventions accredited by the Emirates Science Club.

She is also a first year medical student at UAEU and was nominated as a future ambassador by the Ministry of Education in 2019 as part of the ambassadors programme.

“I have always been interested in medicine and the environment as well and I wanted to know how to combine both," she said after winning the award.

"There are a lot of tools used in the medical field and I want to explore how to make these tools and equipment environmentally friendly.”

Mezna Al Mansoori received the Young Achievers Mother Teresa award, from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood

Ms Al Mansouri is also a member of the Emirates Children’s Parliament. Recently she invented a smart soil tracker to help farmers grow healthy crops, as well as a smart epilepsy tracker device.

“All of my inventions align with the UAE’s sustainability goals. I am hoping to expand my contributions. Today the world is leaning towards environmentally friendly fashion and that is something I have never explored before but would like to start and innovate something in this field.”

Another winner is Emirati Ahmad Salim Al Mutawa, 21.

Mr Al Mutawa is a final year student at the University of Liverpool where he is studying mechatronics and robotic systems engineering. His work combines robotics with the environment.

“I want to continue using technology to find solutions to support the environment. We have surpassed the awareness stage and now it is time to use AI and robotic technology.”

Mr Al Mutawa is also a member of the Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood's Emirati Children's Parliament.

In 2019, Mr Al Mutawa was the youngest member of the judging committee at First Global Challenge, an Olympics-style, international robotics competition that takes place in a different country each year.

First Global invites each nation to send a team to build and program a robot to compete. Teams work together to complete tasks in a game themed around one of the greatest challenges facing our planet.

Sainath Manikandan, 14, and his younger sister Saisahana Manikandan, 12, from Gems United Indian School were the youngest winners and inventors at Thursday's ceremony.

Young Achievers Mother Teresa Award-winners Sainath and Saisahana Manikandan. Victor Besa / The National

For the past six years, they have been actively involved in sustainability projects and campaigns.

"We are adhering to one of our school's core values "care" ― care for our environment and mother earth."

One of their first inventions was the Marine Robot Cleaner that collects waste from the surface of the water.

“I want to change our existing practices into green and sustainable solutions using technology and together we can heal the environment, love the planet,” Sainath said.

“We still want to continue the work that we are doing.”

Sainath is a member of the Emirates Environmental Group and ambassador of Tunza Eco Generation, Students of the Earth and Drop it Youth. Among many other initiatives and programmes, he is also Masdar’s youngest Youth4Sustainability ambassador and Environment Agency 50 years youth ambassador.

American visual artist and activist Dianna Cohen was another winner.

Ms Cohen is the chief executive and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition ― an advocacy group and social movement organisation that seeks to reduce plastic pollution.

The coalition has more than 1,200 organisations in 75 countries all working towards stopping plastic pollution.

“I think that in general the public is becoming more conscious ― does that mean that plastic production is reducing?” she said.

“No, but when you talk to people now, they understand. When you go to a restaurant and ask them not to put a straw in your drink or a farmers market and try to buy food with no plastic, people understand. They didn’t when we started 13 years ago and they say is it because the plastic gets in the ocean and is bad for turtles, for example, and we say yes,” she said.

“I would like to live in a world where we are free of plastic pollution. I'd like to live in a world where we package our food and beverages without extraneous packaging or use packaging like glass, leaves, stainless steel, ceramics, wood, seaweed ― anything that’s nontoxic and bio benign so we are not poisoning ourselves, because right now the world is poisoning itself.

"I have been working on it for 13 years and am willing to continue to do so,” she said.

Updated: July 01, 2022, 2:54 PM