This year, Mira Rai has been chosen as one of the honorees “for defying steep odds, shattering records, and inspiring — and helping — millions of girls.”
As a girl, Mira Rai ran to fetch water and food in a remote Nepali village. By 14, she had become a child soldier in Nepal’s civil war, training in karate and running. In 2014, Mira Rai joined what she thought was an ordinary training run with friends, only to find that she had inadvertently entered a race. Nine hours and 50 kilometers later, she was the only woman who had completed the course.
Four years later, Rai has established herself as a bona fide star, blazing through the world’s most challenging terrain — the foothills of the Himalaya — as a much-decorated “trail runner.” She has also set new course records at events as far from her home as France, and Scotland. She’s won athletic sponsorships, and she was named National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year in 2016.
Mira Rai joins a slate of other female recipients of the 2018 Asia Society Game Changer Awards — including Indian-born Indra Nooyi, the first-ever female CEO of PepsiCo who recently announced she would step down after 12 years at the helm; as well as the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, who has made waves at international robotics competitions.
“It is a crucial moment to honor women from Asia who have battled the odds to shatter glass ceilings, opening pathways for a new generation of women to thrive and prosper,” said Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran said on Thursday.
Indra Nooyi is the 2018 Game Changer of the Year in recognition of her achievements as “a champion for women, champion for sustainability, a champion for wellness, and transformative leader of an iconic global company.” The members of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, meanwhile, are more accomplished than your average teenagers: Their ball-sorting robot, built to distinguish between contaminated and clean water, won them a silver medal for “courageous achievement” at an international robotics competition in Washington, D.C. But what truly sets them apart is how they got there in the first place — and where they came from.
Other recipients of this year’s Game Changer Awards are: the Thai rescuers who saved a dozen teenage soccer players in a flooded cave; the Japanese first responders who risked their lives following the tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima; the founder of the Syrian White Helmets, whose volunteers are among the few “first responders” remaining in that country; a global champion for “green cities” — Wang Shi of China; Dr. Munjed Al Muderis — an Australia-based Iraqi pioneering surgeon who has brought new hope for amputees; and the founders of Koolulam from Israel — a musical phenomenon that aims to bridge the most difficult ethnic and religious divides.
“We honor those who are devoting their own lives to improve and save the lives of others. Humanity owes them a debt of gratitude and we are so honored to recognize their works of passion and compassion. We are proud to be a part of their journey,” said Sheeran.
The awards will be presented to all of the recipients at the 5th Annual Asia Game Changer Awards Dinner and Celebration in New York City on October 9, 2018. The event will also feature the first-ever U.S. performance of Koolulam.