Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020 winners (from left to right): Sowmyan Jegatheesan from Canada, Brian Galabuzi Kakembo from Uganda, Hafiz Usama Tanveer from Pakistan and Sagufta Salma from Fiji.

Ugandan Wins Commonwealth Young Person of the Year

By Abdi Ali
Published April 6, 2020

All finalists of the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020 will each receive a trophy, a certificate and £1,000 to expand the scope of their projects.Brian Galabuzi Kakembo of Uganda has won the 2020 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year award.

Kakembo’s biodegradable plastics and organic waste into eco-friendly charcoal briquettes,won him both the the overall 2020 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year and the Africa and Europe regional prizes.

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Described as having grown up in a poor community in which he has set up an enterprise to educate women and young people to turn waste into wealth, Kakembo has reportedly reached more than 800 women and young people, 600 of who now make and sell briquettes in Uganda.

“I want the world to see that unemployed youth is not a problem but an untapped resource that can be trained and supported to bring about a social change,” Kakembo said at the Commonwealth headquarters in London, Britain, where the ceremony of the awards that ‘recognise exceptional contributions by young people whose ventures are helping their countries achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ was held.

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Commonwealth Youth Awards 2020 winners (from left to right): Sowmyan Jegatheesan from Canada, Brian Galabuzi Kakembo from Uganda, Hafiz Usama Tanveer from Pakistan and Sagufta Salma from Fiji.Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who presented the awards, said: “So the Commonwealth Youth Awards are a searchlight picking out some of the best examples of who we are and what we can do as a family of nations.”

More than 500 award nominations were received from 40 countries out of which 16 were selected as finalists. The awards were presented during a gathering at Commonwealth headquarters in London. Recipients received a £3,000 grant for their projects.

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Apart from Kakembo who won the Africa and Europe regional prize, other regional winners with their projects were:

  • Asia: Hafiz Usama Tanveer, Pakistan, bringing clean water to poor communities (focus on SDG 6: clean water and sanitation)
  • The Caribbean and Canada: Sowmyan Jegatheesan, Canada, providing one-stop information to prevent human-wildlife conflict (focus on SDG 15: life on land)
  • The Pacific: Sagufta Salma, Fiji, transforming waste into sustainable furniture (focus on SDG 12: responsible consumption and production).

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“This award is an encouragement to continue on this trajectory to reach more people and to make water non-exclusive,”, said Hafiz Usama Tanveer, who has created water purification kits to improve access to clean water in poor communities and refugee camps to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases and has reportedly reached more than 11,000 people including victims of the Kerala flooding that occurred in the past two years, of his win.

“The business-as-usual practice has led to the endangering of so many species. We must change our course, understand the evidence and make informed decisions to protect our wildlife from changing climate,” said Sowmyan Jegatheesan who won the Caribbean and Canada regional award for creating what is described as ‘the world’s largest online information hubs to help communities build resilience by better understanding climate activities, migration patterns and human-wildlife conflict’.

Sagufta Salma, whose project that turns waste material into sustainable furniture and home accessories that employs unmarried mothers ‘so they can support their families’ won her the Pacific regional prize, said the Commonwealth award would “help me create more awareness around sustainable living and empower more women to work in a field that is largely dominated by men.”