Oluwaseun is Commonwealth Young Person of the Year 2019

FOR her efforts at assisting thousands of sexual and domestic abuse victims, Nigeria’s Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi has been named the Commonwealth Young person of the Year 2019.

At a ceremony held last Wednesday at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London, according to commonwealth.org, four exceptional young people, winners in their respective zones, shared a total of £12,000 grant for their innovative projects; and 28-year-old Oluwaseun received the star prize of £5,000, which she will use to expand her activities in Nigeria.

Oluwaseun, from Lagos, was presented with the award by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s London headquarters.

Herself a survivor of sexual violence, Oluwaseun set up the ‘Stand to End Rape’ (STER) initiative to provide support to women, men and young people who have experienced any form of gender-based abuse.

“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,” she said on receiving the award.

“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 me, the award is a reminder that our work is seen, felt and should not stop now.”

According to her, STER “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’.”

Osowobi and her award

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work aim to raise the profile and highlight the contribution young people make to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Examples range from poverty alleviation to conflict prevention and resolution, to promoting and enhancing democracy and development.

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More than 500 people from across the Commonwealth were nominated for the award. Oluwaseun was selected from 16 finalists and four regional winners.

Nigeria’s Oluwaseun Osowobi (champion for Africa and Europe region) gained recognition for her focus on SDG 5: Gender Equality; Padmanaban Gopalan from India (Asia regional champion) for his focus on SDG 2: Zero Hunger, and Johanan Dujon from Saint Lucia (The Caribbean and Canada region) for focus on SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.

The other winner (for The Pacific region) is Bobby Siarani from Solomon Islands, with focus on SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Speaking at the awards, Oluwaseun 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.”

Ms Osorobi’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 said: “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.”