London: Four Indian young leaders are among 50 social entrepreneurs, environmental champions, innovators, and human rights activists from across the Commonwealth shortlisted for this year’s Youth Awards.
The young people, aged between 15 to 29, are all involved in initiatives that make tangible contributions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
From India, Akshay Makar has been shortlisted under SDG13 Climate Action, Soumya Dabriwal SDG 5 Gender Equality, Kaushal Shetty SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Shrutika Silswal SDG 4 Quality Education.
“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,” Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General.
“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,” she said.
Akshay Makar is the CEO of Climatenza Solar, a mission-focused company that is working to decarbonise the industrial sector and the company is working with leading global companies like Coca-Cola, Tata Group and Unilever to decarbonise their industrial heat where they are implementing 23MW to cut 37,430 tons of carbon emissions.
Over the next five years, he aims to manufacture 273 MW capacity that will save over 650,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Soumya Dabriwal is a development practitioner and an Economics Graduate from the University of Warwick. While volunteering in Ghana, she observed girls skipping school 3 days/month during their periods and using unsafe menstrual protection. Understanding that this is a global phenomenon gave birth to Project Baala, which delivers innovative menstrual hygiene solutions. Since 2018, Project Baala has provided 1.5 million reusable pads and conducted over 4,000 awareness workshops for 500,000 women and girls across four countries and 25 states of India.
Kaushal Shetty is the Co-Founder and CEO of Nostos Homes, a non-profit organisation that builds sustainable emergency shelters for people displaced by natural disasters.
These homes act as a scalable, data-driven, low-cost, rapid deployment solution for areas in disasters. Kaushal’s work has been recognised by ‘Forbes’, World Bank, Mastercard, the Diana Award and has already facilitated over 481,000 nights of shelter in India and on the African Continent.
Shrutika Silswal is a Dalai Lama Fellow, and the Head of Programmes at the Simple Education Foundation in Uttarakhand, an organisation that supports more than 200 government school children across five schools by delivering contextual and sustainable school transformation programmes.
She is currently designing another programme which will impact more than 100 government schools in Uttarakhand. Together, these programs will ensure that children in this region have age-appropriate academic and social-emotional skills.
Twenty of those shortlisted will be selected as finalists, and the overall winners will attend the awards ceremony in London on September 14. Each of the 20 finalists will receive a trophy, certificate and GBP 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 GBP 3,000. One of the five regional winners will become the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2023 and will be awarded GBP 5,000.
Just under 1,000 entries from across 39 Commonwealth countries were received for the annual award. 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.
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.