By Dipo Olowookere
A 25-year-old medical student at the University of Zambia Ridgway Campus, Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma has won the Queen’s Young Leaders Award.
And Zambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr Muyeba Chikonde has commended Natasha for winning the 2017 Queen’s Young Leaders Award saying it is such a pride for the country to have a Zambian Youth representing the great Nation of Zambia in such a prestigious and competitive programme of the Commonwealth.
The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.
Winners of the Award have received a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty The Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.
Natasha is committed to raising awareness about sexual health. In 2015, while attending medical school, she co-founded Copper Rose Zambia to teach women about the importance of sexual and reproductive health. Since then, the organisation has launched fundraising drives to provide menstrual hygiene kits to girls in rural areas, and, through its Candid Pride Campaign and Woman4Her programmes, has educated over 5,000 teenagers about reproductive health.
Natasha is also the country co-ordinator for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning and a member of the Youth Coalition on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, where she supports the inclusion of young people in policy making. Her goal over the next five years is to reach a million females through sexual and reproductive health programmes by 2021.
And in an interview Natasha said:” when I was told that I would be receiving the award, I was very shocked. I just couldn’t believe how my team’s work on something like menstrual hygiene (which is a taboo topic) could be recognized by the Queen of England. The Queen’s Young Leaders was beyond my imagination; indeed, all things are possible if we try. Now I believe that if I can do it, anyone can do it too. I hope this will inspire young women and girls across the country that there are absolutely no limits to what we can achieve,” she said.
Natasha who is in her final year at the medical school will be in the United Kingdom in June to receive her Award at Buckingham Palace.
And High Commissioner Chikonde has urged outstanding young people in Zambia who are making a difference in their communities to apply to become the Queen’s Young Leaders.
“Any achievement by any Zambian must be celebrated because it is an achievement for all of us Zambians. Last year we had a 19-year-old girl Esther Mungalaba who came up Senior Runner-up of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition and in 2015 Zambia had two youths Brighton Kaoma and Regina Mtonga who were among the winners of the inaugural Queens Young Leaders,” he said.
In addition, the Queen’s Young Leader’s programme has a grants component and Zambia is one of the six countries across the Commonwealth that is a recipient. The grant recipients in Zambia are: BongoHive, ActionAid Zambia, and Restless Development Zambia, all being youth led development support organisations.
The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, in partnership with Comic Relief and The Royal Commonwealth Society, launched The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme in 2014 at Buckingham Palace. The four-year programme, supported by The University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, aims to discover, support and celebrate young people from across the Commonwealth. It helps to transform the lives of young people through awards to individuals who are leaders in their communities and grants to youth-led and focused organisations. The final application round opens at the end of June 2017. Applications are made online at queensyoungleaders.com.
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