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Shougat Nazbin Khan receiving her award for Young Person of the Year for Asia at the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Awards.

Commonwealth youth award winner earns United Nations accolade

25 September 2016

An education advocate from Bangladesh who was honoured in the Commonwealth Youth Awards earlier this year has now been named as one of 17 United Nations Young Leaders.

Shougat Nazbin Khan, aged 27, was recognised at a UN ceremony in New York this week for her outstanding achievements to use technology to widen access to education and reduce poverty in rural Bangladesh.

Chosen from more than 18,000 nominations from 186 countries, the young leaders will work with the United Nations to inspire a new generation to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change.

Shougat said being named Young Person of the Year for Asia in the Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development 2016 gave her work extra exposure and helped her to “stand out” from other applicants for the UN accolade.

“The Commonwealth youth award built the credibility and shed light on my efforts to improve the quality of education. It was a true motivation which inspired me to take my initiative to the next level to ensure social impact at a wider scale,” she said.

Shougat founded the H.A. Digital School and College in northern Bangladesh, which uses digital technology to educate students from rural and poor families. She started raising funds in 2011 in order to construct the school in the remote area of Tarakanda. 

The school has worked to reduce costs for families with financial difficulties and offers free study materials, clothing and transportation. Qualified teachers are hired on a part time basis to travel to rural areas and the school offers free English language and technical training to local full time teachers to improve teaching standards using digital materials.

Now in its second academic year, more than 600 students from 50 villages are now studying at the school, while 90 percent of the teaching staff are women.

Congratulating the Commonwealth award winner on her latest achievement, Katherine Ellis, director of youth affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, commented: “It is wonderful to see Shougat being further recognised for her innovative work on digital education in Bangladesh.”

“Showcasing amazing young people like Shougat, and providing platforms for them to share and expand their work, inspires other young people to follow in their footsteps, and is a critically important part of demonstrating to policymakers how young people everywhere are leading and shaping positive change in the world,” Ms Ellis said.

As well as her work in education, Shougat has also developed a low-cost solar PV irrigation system for farmers for which she was recognised in a Green Talent award in 2015. 

In a statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “These 17 young change-makers are a testament to the ingenuity of youth and I congratulate them for their exceptional leadership and demonstrated commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals."

Find out more about the Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work

Learn more about the UN Young Leaders for Sustainable Development