Commonwealth announces 2013 youth awards finalists

06 September 2013

"Awards showcase the brilliance and the diversity of what young people are doing in The Commonwealth"

Sixteen young people from across The Commonwealth have been shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development. The finalists were selected for their innovative projects that have made a significant difference to their communities and countries.

These range from providing youth employment and job creation initiatives, protecting the environment through innovative ideas in waste management, empowering persons with disabilities and women in rural communities, and leadership through peer education.

The finalists were selected from 296 nominations, and are from Bangladesh, Barbados, Canada, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Mozambique, New Zealand, Pakistan, Rwanda, Samoa, Solomon Islands and South Africa.  They will each receive £1,000 and assistance with developing their projects.

Of the 16 finalists, one young person from each of the four regions: Africa and Europe; Asia; the Caribbean and Canada; and the Pacific - will be named a regional finalist and receive an additional £2,000. One of the four regional finalists will take the overall prize of Pan-Commonwealth winner and receive an additional £2,000.

The regional and Pan-Commonwealth  awards will be presented in London on 16 October 2013, at a special ceremony at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters.

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development were re-launched in 2012 to highlight the positive contribution which young people aged 15-29 are making to the development of Commonwealth countries. It is run by the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP).

Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth Affairs at The Commonwealth said: “These awards showcase the brilliance and the diversity of what young people are doing in The Commonwealth, and what a valuable contribution they are making to development.  These 16 finalists are deeply inspiring young people who truly deserve accolades and recognition for the outstanding development work they are doing.”

The finalists for the awards are:

Africa and Europe 

Gilbert Addah (Ghana) is the founder and Executive Director of Eduvid Education Ghana Limited, a youth-led organisation that conducts research into educational difficulties in Ghana and proposes solutions for them.

Felipe Castigo Chigueda (Mozambique) is a co-founder of Grupo Desportivo e Recreativo de Manica, a football club that creates a family for vulnerable youths, who get together around sport. The footballers are taught computer and life skills and work together on projects to transform their community.

Valens Ntamushobora (Rwanda) is the project founder of Let us Stay Alive (Lusa) - a youth-led initiative that provides vulnerable rural women with access to land, seeds and capital for community gardens, and technical assistance in sustainable agriculture and accessing markets.

Priviledge Cheteni (South Africa) is the founder of the biogas ubulongwe project in the rural village Melani in South Africa. The biogas plant is a 10,000 litre digester that is serving almost 50 families by providing gas for disadvantaged villagers who do not have electricity.


Korvi Rakshand (Bangladesh) is the founder of Volunteer for Bangladesh - the largest volunteer platform in Bangladesh. Over 10,000 registered youth volunteers from Bangladesh and abroad work on raising awareness about education and various social campaigning projects.

Priti Rajagopalan (India) started with waste management (segregation and composting) in her city and was invited by the municipality to devise a plan for the entire city. She also helped set up an organic fertiliser co-operative which has helped farmers in the area. Priti is also building sustainable toilets in villages that have never had them, eco-gardens and teaching children about sustainability. Currently she is working in food security in India and visits villages experimenting with organic farming, land use planning, and solar technologies.

Ranjan Kumar Biswal (India) is the founder and general secretary of Milton Charitable Foundation for the Visually Handicapped. This organisation has been working to empower visually impaired people in Odisha, India, through education, training and rehabilitation for the past nine years.

Salman Ahmad (Pakistan) 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.

Caribbean including Canada

Christaneisha Soleyn (Barbados) started a charity called The United Youth Leaders of Barbados at the age of 16. Her group caters to young people aged 15-25 with a focus on personal development, advocacy and peer education.

Aaron Joshua Pinto (Canada) 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.

Jerome Malone Cowans (Jamaica) is the co-founder of Leaders Endeavouring for Adolescents Development (LEAD) in the volatile inner-city community of Parade Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica. LEAD’s focus is to tackle these problems through peer education. The organisation hosts and participates in several workshops which are aimed to get inner city youth educated to a level where they can be employed.

Lanisia Rhoden (Jamaica) is the founder of the NGO, Young Women/Men of Purpose, which assists young men and women to identify and fulfil their lives’ purposes through mentorship and guidance.


Ariel Chuang (New Zealand) founded the Amina Foundation in October 2012, which provides individuals in developing countries with the necessary skills to break out of poverty. The Amina Foundation currently sponsors the “Let Us Learn” Madrassa project in Mozambique, which is a literacy programme. It involves classes for preschool children to teach them to read and write before school. Approximately 500 children in total participate in this programme.

Fiona Bradley (New Zealand) is a young leader on the Board of Girl Guiding New Zealand. She delivers the anti-violence message to girls and young women so that they have the ability to make informed choices. She also helps develop leadership skills in woman and girls to ensure equality for girls and young women.

Fiona has created a toolkit to make it easier for others to run a ‘Take Back the Night’ initiative in their local area. This is a way for young women aged 18-30 to raise awareness about the issues of safety and violence in their communities, particularly towards women, and provide a space where they can speak out about why this issue is important to them.

Molly Ofa Homasi (Samoa) runs her family business of four stalls at a market, providing employment for young people. She was named Young Agent of Change at the Samoa National Youth Awards in 2012 and then went on to win the top prize of Extraordinary Young Entrepreneur at the prestigious national competition in 2013.

Harry James Olikwailafa (Solomon Islands) is a founding member of the Lau Valley-Urban Honiara youth group and 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.