Fifty outstanding young people, including Nigeria’s Babatunde Bale, have been shortlisted for the 2023 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work, in recognition of their extraordinary achievements and contributions to their communities.
Twenty of those shortlisted will be selected as finalists, and the overall winners will attend the awards ceremony which, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, will this year be held in London on Thursday, September 14, 2023.
Those shortlisted include social entrepreneurs, environmental champions, innovators, and human rights activists, from across the Commonwealth. The young people, aged between 15 to 29, are all involved in initiatives that make tangible contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Bale, who’s area of work is SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-being, has over four years of volunteer and leadership experience in community eye health interventions in Nigeria. He is the co-founder of the RETINA Initiative, a non-profit organisation that helps vulnerable populations overcome preventable blindness through community-based interventions, sustainable eye care innovations, awareness programmes, and advocacy campaigns. Their programmes have benefited over 4,600 people, improving their quality of life.
Just under 1,000 entries, from 39 Commonwealth countries, were received this year. Following a rigorous judging process, those shortlisted were selected across each of the award’s five regional categories: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Canada, and the Pacific. The panel of judges included high commissioners, development experts and youth leaders from across the Commonwealth.
In congratulating the finalists, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, said: “Each year, I am always amazed by the innovative and transformative work these young people are undertaking to create a better world for us all. I am particularly proud that 50 young leaders are being honoured in this Commonwealth Year of the Youth. I have always been of the view that development should be youth-led. Those who have been shortlisted prove that young people are not just passive bystanders, waiting to see what the future will bring. Instead, they are actively shaping it.
“I congratulate all the finalists and applaud them for the exceptional contribution that they are making in their communities. I look forward to meeting the 20 finalists in London this September.”
After two virtual ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards will be presented in person this year as one of the milestone activities of the Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Meeting, which takes place from September 11 to 15, 2023.
Each of the 20 finalists will receive a trophy, certificate and £1,000 to expand the impact of their work. The top finalist from each region will be recognised as the regional winner and will receive £3,000. One of the five regional winners will become the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2023 and will be awarded £5,000.
In continuation of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s partnership with the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT), an additional prize of £20,000 in funding will be awarded to one project, delivered over the course of two years. The selected winner will also be announced at the official awards ceremony. They will be enrolled into QCT’s Platinum Jubilee Fund programme and given access to coaching and development opportunities to help their project flourish.
Traditionally, the Commonwealth Youth Awards names 20 people on the shortlist each year, from which five regional winners are chosen. The substantial increase to 50 people on the shortlist this year celebrates the 50 years of the Commonwealth Youth Programme.
The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work are co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which is within the Social Policy Development Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat.