LONDON, England, Wednesday March 13, 2019 – A St Lucian who founded an indigenous biotechnology company is one of the four recipients of this year’s 2019 Commonwealth Youth Awards given in recognition of efforts to end hunger, sexual violence, sanitation issues and climate change.
Johanan Dujon won the award alongside young people from India, Nigeria, and the Solomon Islands. A ceremony was held today at the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London, where winners shared a £12,000 (US$15,860) grant for their innovative projects.
Dujon’s company Algas Organics develops commercial agricultural products from Sargassum seaweed which has inundated many of the region’s shorelines. Those products unblock fish landing sites and reduce the harmful effect of the seaweed’s hydrogen sulphide emissions on local communities.
Speaking at the ceremony, he said: “St Lucia heavily depends on tourism. This seaweed problem has been having a crippling effect on our tourism and local fishery sector. We have developed a process to transform this seaweed to highly quality fertiliser that we now export to other countries.”
Dujon hopes to use his grant to expand his work to other affected small island states in Africa and the Pacific.
The other Commonwealth Youth Award recipients are Oluwaseun Ayodeji Osowobi of Nigeria, India’s Padmanaban Gopalan, and Bobby Siarani from the Solomon Islands.
Osowobi, who was also named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, set up the ‘Stand to End Rape’ (STER) initiative which trains healthcare workers how to deal with survivors and provides them with free health kits such as HIV tests.
A survivor of sexual violence herself, Osowobi set up the service to offer support to women, men and young people who have experienced any form of gender-based abuse in Nigeria.
“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,” she said at the awards ceremony.
Her work has reached over 200,000 people providing pro-bono medical, legal, mental health, educational and empowerment services.
Osowobi’s sentiments were echoed by Gopalan, an Indian socio-entrepreneur who hopes to end hunger.
He founded the ‘No Food Waste’ programme in India which sees 12,000 volunteers collect surplus food from parties and restaurants. The volunteers then deliver it to ‘hunger spots’ in India to feed the hungry.
Gopalan said: “My programme has recovered over 650,000 meals in my country which have benefited nearly one million people.”
Solomon Island’s advocate for sustainable livelihoods, Siarani founded a bio-gas initiative to address waste disposal and sanitation issues. The project delivered biogas-based construction workshops to over 500 young people and has provided clean energy to hundreds of people in rural areas of his country.
He plans to use his Commonwealth grant to take his initiative to remote areas in the Solomon Islands.
Presenting the awards, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the pace, depth and scope of development in any society depend on how well its youth are nurtured and supported and space must be provided for young people to thrive, to contribute and to realize 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,” she said.
Every year the Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work recognize the exceptional contribution of young people, aged 15-29, from the 53-member Commonwealth, who are leading initiatives in view of the sustainable development goals.
From more than 500 nominations from over 45 countries, 16 finalists were chosen by a panel of judges including representatives of high commissions, partner organizations and young leaders before the final four were selected.
Ryan Robinson Perinchief of Bermuda and Curmira Gulston of Trinidad and Tobago were among the 16 finalists.