A young Nigerian woman, Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi, has been named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year.
Oluwaseun was selected from 16 finalists and four regional winners; who were shortlisted from more than 500 people from across the Commonwealth nominated for the award.
Twenty-eight-year-old Oluwaseun who is helping thousands of sexual and domestic abuse victims, was presented with the award by Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat headquartered in London.
Oluwaseun, a survivor of sexual violence is founder of the Stand to End Rape (STER) Initiative which provides support to women, men and young people who have experienced any form of gender-based abuse.
Receiving a prize of £5,000, which would be used to expand her activities in Nigeria, 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.”
“This award reminds me that when young people don’t look away in the face of injustice, and say ‘no’ to cultural biases, we have the capacity to create change because we are magic.
“Winning this award encourages me to keep working hard to build a safe community for women, girls and men in Nigeria and that my story is valid.
“To my team and I, the award is a reminder that our work is seen, felt and should not stop now.”
Oluwaseun explained further that: “Our organisation provides medical, legal, mental health and psychosocial support, and empowerment services – depending on the requirement. In certain instances, we provide shelter access and financial support to survivors.
“Having experienced sexual violence myself, I understand the cultural barrier of speaking up, and the lapses or lack of services available.
“This award is a reaffirmation that elimination of sexual violence in Nigeria and other Commonwealth Countries is important and a core agenda of the Commonwealth Secretariat as we work towards achieving a ‘Connected Commonwealth’.”
Oluwaseun’s work has reached over 200,000 people providing pro-bono medical, legal, mental health, educational and empowerment services.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General who presented the awards, noted that” “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.”
“The Commonwealth has remained at the forefront of youth engagement because we recognise – within the diversity and broad distribution of our worldwide family – the powerful individual agency of young people.
“With many of our nations experiencing a demographic bulge of younger people, partnering with youth becomes ever more important.”
In its 30th year, every year the Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work recognise the exceptional contribution of young people, aged 15-29, of 53 Commonwealth countries who are leading initiatives in view of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other regional recipients of the awards include: Padmanaban Gopalan, India, focus on SDG 2: Zero Hunger, (Asia); Johanan Dujon, Saint Lucia, focus on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (The Caribbean and Canada); and Solomon Islands, focus on SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, (The Pacific: Bobby Siarani).