A Nigerian, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi has won the overall prize of the 2019 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, in recognition of her efforts to end sexual violence.
Osowobi and three other exceptional young people from India, the Solomon Islands and Saint Lucia who also won prizes were presented with the awards at a ceremony held on Wednesday at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London.
The Nigerian and the other winners shared a £12,000 grant for their innovative projects, according to a statement by Snober Abbasi, Assistant Communications Officer for the Commonwealth Secretariat.
She also emerged the Commonwealth Youth Awards regional winner for Africa and Europe, with her project focus on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Gender Equality
A survivor of sexual violence herself, Osowobi set up the ‘Stand to End Rape’ (STER) initiative.
She set up the service to offer support to women, men and young people who have experienced any form of gender-based abuse in Nigeria.
STER trains healthcare workers how to deal with survivors and provides them with free health kits such as HIV tests.
Speaking at the awards, she said: “I dream of a future where this work is not required. I dream of the day when sexual violence is completely eradicated from this world.”
Osowobi’s work has reached over 200,000 people providing pro-bono medical, legal, mental health, educational and empowerment services.
Padmanaban Gopalan, from India, won the regional category for Asia, and his project focused on SDG 2: Zero Hunger.
The Caribbean and Canada’s regional category was won by Johanan Dujon, from Saint Lucia, whose focus was on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
For The Pacific region, Bobby Siarani, from Solomon Islands, emerged winner, with a project focus on SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who presented the awards, said: “The pace, depth and scope of development in any society depend on how well its youth are nurtured and supported.
“This means providing the space for young people to thrive, to contribute and to realise their potential.
“In such an environment, they are able to exercise their rights and citizenship, and to find fulfilment and purpose; passing on to others the gains and positive values that come from the true community.”
Every year, the ‘Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work’ recognise the exceptional contribution of young people, aged 15 to 29, of 53 Commonwealth countries who are leading initiatives in view of the SDGs.
From more than 500 nominations from over 45 countries, 16 finalists were chosen by a panel of judges including representatives of high commissions, partner organisations and young leaders.
The 12 additional finalists for the awards were also drawn from the four categorised regions, with each region producing three winners.
This is the 30th year of the Commonwealth Youth Awards which are run by the Commonwealth Youth Programme to promote the innovation, creativity and potential of young people in solving socio-economic and environmental challenges.