Sri Lankan named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2017

15 March 2017

The co-founder of a foundation which supports minorities and marginalised communities in Sri Lanka has been named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2017.

The co-founder of a foundation which supports persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka has been named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2017.

Krystle Reid co-founded Enable Lanka Foundation to break stereotypes and stigma, and was recognised along with three other outstanding regional winners in this year’s Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work. 

Through her foundation, Krystle and her team have helped disabled young people to secure employment and become self-sufficient. She was also part of the first ever campaign in Sri Lanka aimed at encouraging participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process.

On learning of her award, Krystle said, “Winning this award means that people do believe in our work and admitting the fight for the largest minority in the world is real.

“This award will definitely be advantageous as it would give more credibility to the work we do at Enable Lanka Foundation and bring more opportunities to collaborate with other organisations and like-minded people. It’s an opportunity to tap the many potential resources within the Commonwealth and to expand the work we do for the greater good.”

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work, an initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth programme, celebrate outstanding young adults aged under 30 who are leading initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace-building.

This year’s winners, drawn from over 200 entries, are recognised for spearheading projects that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals – a set of 17 global targets that governments have committed to achieve by 2030.

At the awards ceremony on 15 March at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London, regional awards were presented to three other young people chosen from a shortlist of 17 finalists:

  • Charles Lipenga from Malawi – Commonwealth Africa Young Person of the Year
  • Jacqueline Joseph from Papua New Guinea – Commonwealth Pacific Young Person of the Year
  • Tricia Teekah from Guyana - Commonwealth Caribbean Young Person of the Year

The awards were presented by Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who praised all this year’s finalists for their efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Secretary-General said, “With our Commonwealth Youth Awards we honour exceptional individuals whose practical sense of purpose is uplifting, and whose passion inspires us. I encourage anyone who thinks they can’t make a difference to follow the example of these youth leaders who are working in imaginative ways to make our world safer, and our societies fairer and more inclusive. Through determination and dedication these Commonwealth Youth Award nominees and finalists have achieved astonishing things for the common good.”

“Throughout the Commonwealth young people such as these are taking action as pioneers and change-makers whose contributions are essential to achieving national and global development goals, from halting the human impacts of climate change to countering poverty and discrimination.”

The awards were chosen by a panel of judges including representatives of Commonwealth High Commissions, Commonwealth organisations and young leaders.

This year’s Commonwealth young persons of the year were drawn from a shortlist of 17 finalists from 13 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Uganda and United Kingdom.

Commonwealth Youth Awards winners:

Krystle Reid from Sri Lanka – Commonwealth Young Person of the Year and Commonwealth Asia Young Person of the Year

Commonwealth Young Person of the Year Krystle Reid and her organisation, Enable Lanka Foundation, helped to launch the Enabled Elections initiative, which was one of the largest civil rights campaigns for the political and electoral rights of persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka organised by the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence. 

Her work has impacted many persons with disabilities through community-driven economic empowerment courses across the country. The foundation also organised the #ComicForCause campaign which focuses on comedians and comic artists on issues facing young people living with disabilities. Krystle and her team also introduced an incubator space for young entrepreneurs with disabilities and a mobile application of audio books to local universities and school students.

She added: “This will definitely make any young person out there to look hard at what they are doing to improve sustainability. This is not just an award, it’s an opportunity to tap the many potential resources within the Commonwealth and expand the work we do for the greater good."

Charles Lipenga from Malawi – Commonwealth Africa Young Person of the Year

Charles established the Maestros Leadership Team, a youth-led organisation that has trained more than 10,000 young people who joined a ‘Let’s Do This’ campaign with volunteers across Malawi and 22 other countries. He led an initiative called Project Inspired that raised funds for 1,000 student scholarships and adopted a government secondary school in Blantyre, Malawi.

He initiated the Care4Girls campaign to mentor young girls to stay in school through empowerment programmes and free sports equipment. Maestros teams are now established in nine universities within Malawi alone with over 20,000 students participating.

Charles said: “For the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I believe it is key that as young people, we should no longer remain passive beneficiaries but become equal and effective partners for development. That is why I strongly believe, through equal opportunities to quality education we can create a great awareness and mobilise a global movement where more young people will discover their purposes and take their roles in development.”

Jacqueline Joseph from Papua New Guinea – Commonwealth Pacific Young Person of the Year

Jacqueline is the co-founder of Equal Playing Field, a not-for-profit organisation that uses sport as a tool to prevent violence against women and children and promote gender equality in schools. She created Equal Playing Field for School (EPF4S), an eight-week respectful relationships programme that uses sport to engage with adolescent boys and girls. Through the programme, Jacqueline educates around two thousand 13- to 15-year-old girls and boys in schools in Port Moresby each year about the importance of respectful relationships as a way to reduce family and sexual violence.

Within two years of operating Equal Playing Field has trained 90 volunteer facilitators, who have worked with over 4,000 young people and 80 teachers in over 18 schools. Its model was recognised as ‘emerging best practice’ at two recent international conferences in Fiji and Australia. Equal Playing Field aims to also run a training programme for school sports coaches in the Solomon Islands as well.

Jacqueline said: “The award brings in great recognition for Equal Playing Field in the Pacific region and the globe. As an organisation we have done great work however we have not been able to share to great extent what we have achieved. This award is really beneficial in this context because the hard work and passion of the Equal Playing Field movement is felt by the world. Young people not only in the Pacific but the world now get to hear about an initiative run by young people just like them and a programme that is supporting their future generation.”

Tricia Teekah from Guyana - Commonwealth Caribbean Young Person of the Year

Tricia co-founded the Guyana National Youth Council with the objective to enhance youth empowerment, engagement, inclusion and participation at all levels. She led the ‘Vote Like a Boss’ campaign, a youth voter education initiative which used private sector partnerships to educate young voters.

The campaign reached more than 16,000 young people within a month and more than 1,300 young people participated in an online geo-mapping exercise on voter issues. She also pioneered the formation of a Core Committee for the establishment of a National Students’ Movement in Guyana and lobbied for student bodies in secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.

Tricia said: “Receiving this award for a project crafted on the principles of democracy, human rights, youth political participation and engagement is a reflection and commitment of the Commonwealth Secretariat to Article 13 of the Charter of the Commonwealth. It promulgates the rewards and fruits of teamwork, partnership and private sector collaboration in light of the tremendous success of the project.

“This award will increase awareness of a relatively new, youth-led and independent National Youth Council in Guyana and its innovative initiatives that are intended to encourage youth contribution to development and creating a sustainable environment.  It will be leverage to further engage all stakeholders to strengthen partnerships and collaboration. I hope it will inspire young people not only in Guyana and the Caribbean region but across the Commonwealth to be bold and to take ownership of the future of their communities and the world at large.”

Notes to Editors:

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 52 independent and sovereign countries. It spans the globe, including both advanced economies and developing countries, in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, Europe and the Pacific. Its combined population is 2.4 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged under 30.

The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to create and sustain a Commonwealth that is resilient, peaceful and prosperous and that cherishes equality, diversity and shared values.

We help to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s youth development work is delivered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which has been supporting member countries for over 40 years. Find out more:

Learn more about the finalists of this year’s Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work

Watch the Commonwealth Youth Awards ceremony on the Commonwealth website

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