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2019 Commonwealth Youth Awards Finalists Announced

8 February 2019

Entrepreneurs, innovators and social activists are among the 16 high-achieving contenders shortlisted for this year's Commonwealth Youth Awards. 

It's the thirtieth year of the Awards, which recognise and celebrate the achievements of people aged 15 to 29 whose innovative projects are making a significant contribution to their communities and driving change in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Awards attracted five hundred nominations from 45 countries. From those shortlisted, four regional Young Persons of the Year will be invited to attend the Commonwealth Youth Awards ceremony in London on 13 March 2019. One exceptional individual will be chosen as the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2019.

In addition to a grant of GBP £1,000 to scale up their development work, finalists will each be awarded a trophy and certificate. 

Each of the 4 Regional Young Person of the Year will receive £3,000, and a total of £5,000 will go to the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2019. 

Since their inception, the Youth Awards have helped raise awareness of the work of hundreds of young people, and to scale up their projects to make a bigger impact in their societies, nations and the globe at large

The finalists were chosen by a Pan-Commonwealth adjudication panel of judges, convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat. This included the High Commissioners for Barbados, Namibia and Papua New Guinea, and representatives from the High Commission of Bangladesh, the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth Youth Council.

The shortlisted finalists are:

Caribbean and Canada

Trinidad and Tobago – Curmira Gulston

Focus: SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Curmira is the national coordinator for the Caribbean Youth Environment Network, working on a project to raise awareness of the environmental issues affecting water quality in the Arima and Courland watersheds of Trinidad and Tobago. The project also partners with local government, schools and grassroot community groups to find ways to reduce human impact on the environment through educational and community initiatives. The project has reached over 1200 school children and 300 communities members in the country, fostering a positive attitude towards improving water quality.

Saint Lucia - Johanan Dujon

Focus: SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Johanan is the founder of ‘Algas Organics’; an indigenous biotechnology company in the Caribbean. The company develops commercial agricultural products from harmful Sargassum seaweed; unblocking fish landing sites, reducing the harmful effects of the seaweed’s hydrogen sulphide emissions on local communities and providing jobs to employed young people. The company currently exports to seven Caribbean nations with plans to expand its range of agricultural products and markets.

Canada – Ashley Komangaapik Rose Cummings

Focus: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Ashley is an indigenous rights activist committed to improving the health and wellness of Inuit communities in Northern Canada. Her work includes running cultural revitalisation and youth empowerment programmes in the Canadian North, and destigmatising mental illness by connecting marginalised communities with available support and resources. Ashley is also a member of the Canadian Prime Minister’s Youth Council, working to ensure that the voices of these communities are heard and considered in national decision-making processes.

Bermuda – Ryan Robinson Perinchief

Focus: SDG 4: Quality Education

Ryan is the founder of the ‘Future Leaders Bermuda’; an initiative which offers opportunities to underprivileged young people through study, service, mentorship and skills training, empowering them to make a positive change in their community. In just one year, the programme has educated nearly 40 young students, partnered with over 15 community members and organisations and has been endorsed by the Government of Bermuda.

Asia

Brunei – Siti Najihah Kamilah Binti Latif

Focus: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Siti is a leading activist for sexual health in Brunei, working on a youth-led programme (HIV&AIDS for Peer and Youth Program – HAPPY) to raise awareness and increase knowledge on sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy. Siti’s work as part of the programme includes public speaking in schools on HIV/AIDS awareness, running widespread campaigns and high-level advocacy with government, reaching almost 10,000 young people.

Pakistan – Shazna Khan Shahani

Focus: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Shazna is the co-founder of ‘Bolotech’, a tech company which provides speech therapy tools for people with speech impediments. The programme includes an online platform of lesson plans offering an easy, accessible and cost-effective speech assisting tool, specifically in the Urdu language. The system has been used by hundreds across schools, hospitals and rehab centres.

India – Sai Venkata Satya Kedar Illa

Focus: SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Satya Illa is the founder of ‘Kaanthi’ which promotes electrical safety awareness through local education camps. Satya trains local communities in first aid and electrical safety, engages with local engineering colleges to raise awareness and has also developed a low-cost electrical insulator device to protect communities exposed to dangerous, poor quality electrical infrastructure in public spaces.

India - Padmanaban Gopalan

Focus: SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Padmanaban is the founder of ‘No Food Waste’; a surplus food recovery system in India. The programme works with volunteers and local authorities to collect excess food from functions and restaurants and delivers them to ‘hunger spots’ around the country to feed hungry people. The initiative also has a geo-mapping platoform which allows users to drop food at located ‘hunger spots’. The initiative has so far recovered over 650,000 meals across 14 cities, and the platform has been used by 12000 volunteers.

Africa and Europe

Rwanda – Alice Mukaskyaka

Focus: SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Alice is the founder of ‘Starlight’; which replaces kerosene lamps with locally made solar powered lanterns to rural homes, schools and refugee camps to provide clean, sustainable energy. The company operates a women-led business model; recruiting, training and supporting local women to sell and distribute the solar lights and become clean-energy microentrepreneurs.

Uganda - Brenda Katwesigye

Focus: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Brenda is the founder of ‘Wazi Vision’; which runs mobile eye tests in schools and recycles plastic waste to produce affordable eyewear to vulnerable groups in Uganda. Sales from the produced eyewear are also used to provide free eyewear to underprivileged young children in local communities. Wazi Vision has helped more than 5000 people access affordable eye care and given over 200 free glasses to children.

Nigeria - Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi

Focus: SDG 5: Gender Equality

Oluwaseun is the founder of the ‘Stand to End Rape’ Initiative; which raises awareness of violence against women and girls through policy advocacy, prevention and support for victims. The organisation trains healthcare providers on sexual violence response mechanisms, donates HIV test kits to community health care centres, and developed an app for victims to map and contact police stations and healthcare centres. Her advocacy has reached over 200,000 people and provided pro bono medical, legal, mental health, educational and empowerment services to thousands of victims.

Uganda – Turatsinze Mafigi Victor

Focus: SDG 4: Quality Education

Turatsinze is the co-founder of UNLEASHED; a programme dedicated to supporting the empowerment of young marginalised refugees through education, training and skills development. The programme is made up of several projects including to help refugees grow their own food, fight against refugee discrimination, and create income generating activities to encourage refugees to become social entrepreneurs.

Pacific

Samoa - Angelica Salele & Isabell Rasch

Focus: SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Angelica and Isabell are co-founders of Mana Care; a start-up which produces reusable sanitary pads for woman and girls living in poverty and low-income households to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic waste and encourage a low-carbon lifestyle. The programme has provided reusable pads to over 250 women and trained 100 girls on safe menstrual health management.

Solomon Islands - Bobby Siarani

Focus: SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Bobby is an advocate for sustainable livelihoods in Honiara; setting up a bio gas initiative to address organise waste disposal and sanitation issues, and promote clean energy production, entrepreneurship and employment within the community. The project has involved around 500 young people through awareness raising and bio-gas system construction workshops and helped provide free clean energy to hundreds of people in rural communities.

Fiji – Zoe Paisley & Lisa Paisley

Focus: SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Zoe Paisley and Lisa Paisley are the co-founders of Aggie Global; a social business which educates farmers on safe, sustainable and efficient agricultural production in order to increase the quality and quantity of crops grown. The business runs workshops and consultancies on sustainable agricultural practices with farmers and have connected with over 7,000 Fijian farmers with the aim to increase their farming revenue and crop diversity.

Fiji - Sivendra Michael

Focus: SDG 13: Climate action

Sivendra is a climate change activist, currently running two programmes in Fiji to build youth climate networks, identify challenges faced by local communities and build the capacity of young people to better understand international climate policy. Sivendra has worked to implement a range of initiatives including running campaigns for alternative energy sources, community awareness and advocacy programmes on climate change and supporting young delegates to attend international forums and meetings on climate action.

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