The Commonwealth Youth Awards or Excellence in Development Work aims to raise the profile and highlight the contribution that young people make to achieving development goals. Young people throughout the Commonwealth undertake projects and initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace building, in their diligent efforts at promoting and enhancing democracy and development.
The awards presented to Commonwealth citizens (age 15-29) whose contribution to development work reflects the Commonwealth’s Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment to:
- Promote youth participation in decision making
- Promote economic empowerment of young people
- Take action for equality between young women and men
- Promote peaceful and democratic environments in which human rights flourish
- Provide quality education for all
- Improve access to information and communication technology
- Promote health, development and values through sports and culture
- Engage young people to protect the environment.
2013 Awards Winners and Finalists:
PAN-COMMONWEALTH YOUTH AWARD
Priti Rajagopalan: India (also winner of the Asia Regional Award)
Priti Rajagopalan is a climate change and sustainable development advocate with research and grassroots work experience in India and abroad. She worked in Bangladesh as an intern with the World Bank in climate adaptation, and in partnership with a local NGO, developed a micro-finance model for delivering climate change resources at the sub-national level to the most vulnerable societies. She has also started various waste management projects under the aegis of the British Council climate champion programme which have been accepted by the local and state governments of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Priti has conducted workshops on grassroots projects and training for youth in the Conference of Youth that precedes the Conference of parties every year. In addition, she designed a mentorship project that is currently practiced in 10 universities across India. It provides young people with the skills to innovate and to use existing knowledge in devising solutions for the Millennium Development Goals. Its initiatives are based on the themes of rural sanitation, eco-tourism, and solar devices training.
AFRICA and EUROPE
Gilbert Addah: Ghana
Gilbert is the founder and Executive Director of Eduvid Education Ghana limited, a youth-led organisation that conducts research into the educational difficulties in Ghana and proposes appropriate solutions for them. Eduvid developed the Internet Study Mate (ISM) for Senior High Students, a socio-academic platform to ensure that, irrespective of the Senior High school a person attends, he/she will have access to good quality teachers, study materials and study mates to support them in their studies. The ISM has the vision of reaching students in other West African countries in order to promote quality and equality in education in the sub-region. The project will extend to 200 Senior High Schools in the next academic year, and currently has 3,366 beneficiaries.
Priviledge Cheteni: South Africa
Priviledge is is the founder of the biogas ubulongwe project in the rural village of Melani in South Africa. This initiative serves approximately 50 families by providing gas for disadvantaged villagers who do not have electricity. Priviledge is currently serving as the Chairman of the World Youth Government representing the African continent.
Valens Ntamushobora: Rwanda
Valens is currently the founder and Program Officer of the Lusa Programme, an initiative that focuses on vulnerable rural women as the main benefactors. It provides access to land, seeds and capital in order to create community gardens, as well as technical assistance in sustainable agriculture and market linkages.
Filipe Chigueda: Mozambique
Filipe is the Director of Grupo Desportivo de Manica, a football club in Mozambique that creates a family-like environment for vulnerable young people to connect around sport. The footballers are taught computer and life skills and work together on projects to transform their community.
Korvi Rakshand: Bangladesh
Korvi is the founder and chairman of JAAGO Foundation, a Bangladesh based non-profit organisation catering to the education needs of children from socially and economically disadvantaged background. Its subsidiary – Volunteers for Bangladesh – is the largest volunteer platform in Bangladesh with over 12,000 registered youth volunteers.
Salman Ahmad: Pakistan
Salman is the Founder of Growth And Development of Entrepreneurs -Pakistan, which helps young entrepreneurs achieve sustainable growth through small financial grants, training and technical and logistical support. He leads a training programme in universities for entrepreneurial behavior development that has had over 4,000 participants.
Ranjan Kumar Biswal: India
Ranjan is the founder and General Secretary of the Milton Charitable Foundation for the Visually Handicapped. Over the past nine years, it has worked to empower visually impaired people in Odisha, India, through education, training and rehabilitation.
CARIBBEAN (including Canada)
Christaneisha Soleyn: Barbados
Christaneisha founded The United Youth Leaders of Barbados when she was only 16. Her group caters to young people with the focus of improving personal development, advocacy, peer education and service activities. She also ran a summer school for children who were performing below expectations in school. Christaneisha served as a CARICOM Youth Ambassador, where she advocated for causes affecting the Caribbean and helped create regional policies. She has done extensive advocacy work with the aim of ending violence against women, and interned at a crisis centre where she offered counselling to abused women. She sits on the National Youth Policy Committee for Barbados and provides empowerment sessions and sex education talks at schools around the country.
Aaron Joshua Pinto: Canada
Aaron is the founder of Meals with Love, a social entrepreneurship and environmental venture. His organisation provides nutritious and environmentally-friendly food hampers to support agencies and shelters, new immigrants, the deprived, the aged and the abused in the Greater Toronto Area.
Lanisia Rhoden: Jamaica
Lanisia is the founder of Young Women/Men of Purpose, an NGO that provides career mentorship and guidance to young people between the ages of 13 and 25 years. She co-founded the Youth Entrepreneurship Project, which trained 50 young people in Jamaica and assisted 10 of them in starting their own businesses through an incubation process.
Jerome Malone Cowans: Jamaica
Jerome is the co-founder of Leaders Endeavouring for Adolescents Development (LEAD), an NGO based in Parade Gardens, Jamaica. LEAD hosts and participates in several workshops that are aimed at educating inner city youth in order to steer them away from crime and towards productive activities.
Ariel Chuang: New Zealand
Ariel established the Amina Foundation, which endeavours to be a platform for change and provide individuals in developing countries with the necessary skills to break out of poverty. The Foundation currently sponsors the “Let Us Learn” Madrassa project in Mozambique, which is a literacy programme for children. Over 600 preschoolers participate in classes that teach them to read and write before school. Ariel has participated in medical volunteer trips in Botswana, Cambodia and Mozambique. She founded her own physio clinic, LifePhysio, which has the aim of bringing life to others in the spiritual, mental and physical sense.
Fiona Bradley: New Zealand
Fiona is on the Board of Girl Guiding New Zealand, and delivers an anti-violence message to girls and young women so that they have the ability to make informed choices. She helps to facilitate the development of leadership skills in women and girls. Fiona also created a toolkit to make it easier for others to run a ‘Take Back the Night’ initiative in their local area.
Molly Ofa Homasi: Samoa
Molly runs her family’s dress-making business at the local market, providing employment for young people. She was named Young Agent of Change at the Samoa National Youth Awards in 2012 and was named Extraordinary Young Entrepreneur in 2013. She is the also the national youth representative for her village.
Harry James Olikwailafa: Solomon Islands
Harry is a founding member of the Lau Valley-Urban Honiara youth group. He also runs the Youth Finance (Y-Fin) project, which addresses the lack of opportunities for young people in urban Honiara and in the Solomon Islands through education, employment and enterprise.