A male reproductive rights activist and a social entrepreneur helping small farmers to access credit are among the 17 youth leaders named as finalists for the prestigious 2016 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work.
The awards recognise outstanding young people under the age of 30 from Commonwealth countries whose work has significantly contributed to local, national, regional and global development. Over 300 nominations were received this year.
Also among the finalists are a young female engineer who helps to empower rural women in India through jewellery-making, an anti-bullying activist who published her first book at age 12, and an advocate who provides human trafficking victims with counselling and skills training.
Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “These finalists are deeply inspiring young people who deserve to be celebrated. The incredible work that they do, and the impact they make, underscores the important role that young people play in driving development and democracy.”
The judging panel for the awards included representatives of High Commissions, Commonwealth organisations and young leaders. Four regional winners will be announced in London during Commonwealth Week (14-18 March), when the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year will also be revealed.
In addition to a cash prize, the four regional winners will receive a trip to London to meet Commonwealth leaders. All finalists will receive a cash prize and trophy.
Commonwealth Week is celebrated by governments, young people and schools, communities and civil society organisations every year in March. The occasion is marked across the Commonwealth with a range of activities, including a multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey in London on Commonwealth Day, which is on 14 March this year.
The 2016 Commonwealth theme is ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth’. It celebrates the diversity of the Commonwealth, which is made up of more than two billion people.
The finalists for the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work are as follows:
Peris Bosire (Kenya)
Peris is the founder of Farm Drive, a start-up that enables smallholder farmers to access sustainable finance by providing their credit profiles to financial institutions through mobile technology.
Achaleke Christian Leke (Cameroon)
Achaleke established Local Youth Corner Cameroon, a youth-led organisation promoting peace and countering violent extremism. Over 5,000 young Cameroonians have been impacted by its youth empowerment and leadership programmes.
Vedant Dharam Gupt Seeam (Mauritius)
Vedant is the founder and president of ELI Africa, which runs education programmes and centres for underprivileged youth, and has engaged over 100 students on themes of environmental sustainability and science and technology.
Kisirisa Muhammed (Uganda)
Kisirisa is the founder of Action for Fundamental Change and Development, an NGO that works to alleviate poverty in slum communities. It has an annual reach of 800 young people.
Wangechi Mwangi (Kenya)
Wangechi is the founder and CEO of Valuraha – a company that runs financial education initiatives in secondary schools. There are currently 1,000 students in the Valuraha programme.
Nikhil Bohra (India)
Nikhil is a biotech engineer and founder of Cattle Mettle, a social venture that develops cattle feed from local agricultural resources, helping small farmers to increase their profits by decreasing the cost of feed.
Jiten Joshi (India)
Jiten works for the Boisar Complex Recovery Care Centre, which has impacted over 6,000 young women rescued from human trafficking (many of whom are HIV-positive). The centre provides support, counselling and skills training.
Shougat Nazbin Khan (Bangladesh)
Shougat is an education advocate and founded the H.A Digital School and College, which uses innovative digital technology methods to engage its 300 registered students from rural and poor families.
Mona Parkash (Pakistan)
Mona founded Dewan Farm School in her village in Pakistan, a primary school targeting poor and minority families. Since its establishment, Dewan has expanded its annual attendance from three to 75 pupils.
Asha Farrell (Barbados)
Asha is an assistant coordinator with A Ganar Barbados Sport for Development Programme, which trains young people, particularly juvenile offenders, to develop life skills such as teamwork and communication through sport.
Shamoy Hajare (Jamaica)
Shamoy is the founder of the Jamaica School for Social Entrepreneurship, an NGO that promotes the development of social enterprises by young people. She is also co-founder of the Youth Entrepreneurship Project.
Leanne Prendergast (Canada)
At age 12, Leanne founded Love our Lives, an NGO that empowers young victims of bullying. She also published “Getting to Know Me” a self-help book that promotes self-esteem among young people.
Tevin Shepherd (St. Lucia)
Tevin is the co-founder of ProjectCan, a youth group that engages young people in education, entrepreneurship and leadership. He also served as vice-president of the St. Lucia National Youth Council.
Kimberley Abbott (Australia)
Kimberley founded Roka, a social enterprise that employs rural Indian women in jewellery-making, whose products are then sold and distributed online. She also founded two NGOs focused on empowering young women engineers.
David Kakiakia (Kiribati)
David is a peer educator on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). He has organised workshops for the Kiribati Family Health Association, with a particular focus on the role of boys in SRHR.
Bal Kama (Papua New Guinea)
Bal is the founder and director of Kama Scholars Foundation – a grassroots initiative that empowers disadvantaged youth. The Foundation has awarded 56 scholarships and organised volunteer placements for Australian medical students in local communities.
Faranisese Ratu (Fiji)
Faranisese is the founder and president of Youths against Corruption - Fiji, a youth volunteer network of young professionals who champion principles of integrity, transparency, and accountability.