Three Kenyans are among the 59 young men and women awarded worldwide with the 2017 Queen’s Young Leader Awards. The awards which are held annually were dominated by winners from Africa. The three Kenyans, Chebet Lesan, Domtila Chesang and Towett Ng’etich won the awards for using their skills to transform lives in their communities.
Chebet Lesan founded BrightGreen Renewable Energy in order to turn the problem of waste in Kenya into a means to solve another problem – the issue of unsafe and unsustainable cooking fuel. Today, under her leadership, BrightGreen has processed more than 80 tonnes of clean cooking fuel from recycled waste, through the production of smokeless fuel briquettes that reduce indoor air pollution by up to 80%. In addition, the organisation fights deforestation by replanting trees as a source of energy, trains early school leavers on how to make BrightGreen’s products, and teaches women how to run their own sustainable businesses. Chebet’s dream is to see these solutions expanded to other African communities experiencing similar challenges.
Domtila Chesang co-founded the group Kepsteno Rotwo Tipin CBO – “Let’s Abandon The Knife” to end female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kenya. After helping to end the practice in her own village, Domtila now visits other communities to champion girls’ education and support the eradication of FGM and early forced marriages. She conducts workshops, training and seminars and has established alternative rite of passage ceremonies for young people. Domtila also believes that men need to take an active role in helping to end FGM and she is planning to hold a Warriors’ Festival to engage their support. The event will bring together men from remote villages to be trained on the negative health implications of FGM.
Towett Ng’etich is the founder and chief executive of Uthabiti, formerly Daktari Thabiti (“reliable doctor”), a social enterprise that aims to tackle the problem of counterfeit drugs by verifying the provenance and safety of the medicines this is done through portable scanners for suppliers and a mobile app for consumers. The app installs a digital scanner onto the phone to confirm legitimacy of drugs by scanning their batch numbers. Towett has also helped launch Onward, a social action platform, which encourages young people to volunteer to make changes in their communities in five main areas: education, healthcare, urban development, peace and cohesion, and women, youth and vulnerable groups.
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 this prestigious Award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they 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.
As well as awarding inspirational young people, Queen’s Young Leaders Grants will be made to organisations in selected Commonwealth countries that can show they are improving the lives of young people. the goal is to provide opportunities for young people to learn new skills, enter employment and give them a voice in their communities.