Nigerian woman named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year for abuse support programme

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A young Nigerian woman who is helping thousands of sexual and domestic abuse victims, has been named Commonwealth Young Person of the Year.

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

She also received a prize of £5,000, which she will use to expand her activities in Nigeria.

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

She said: “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.

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

Oluwaseun explained: “Our organisation 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’.”

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.

The 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.”

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

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