Nine young Muslims presented Queen’s awards

27th Jul 2018
Nine young Muslims presented Queen’s awards

(Photo: Comic Relief)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Nine young Muslims have been presented the last ever Queen’s Young Leaders Award, this year; they join 20 other young Muslims named since 2015. A Bruneian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Canadian, two Bangladeshis and three Pakistanis were just some of the winners from 38 countries hosted by the Queen as well as Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Buckingham Palace on June 26.

The finalists met a host of high profile figures including former Real Madrid and Manchester United player David Beckham; former British Prime Minister, John Major; British Olympic boxing champion Nicola Adams; supermodel Neelam Gill; Comedian, philanthropist and TV presenter Sir Lenny Henry; writer and broadcaster Emma Gannon, BBC anchor Tina Daheley. The Queen’s Young Leaders convened in London for their Residential 10-day programme – involving high-level meetings and engagements that began on June 18 designed to help them further their life-changing work.

During their time in the UK, the young people visited 10 Downing Street, met senior representatives from the UK’s leading organisations and charities and took part in educational workshops at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education.

The Queen’s Young Leader Award

The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional young people aged between 18 and 29 from across 53 Commonwealth countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, The Caribbean and Americas, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. The programme is now in its fourth and final year and has formed a unique community of 240 influential change-makers.

The programme is designed to discover, celebrate and support exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth. Winners received a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK and, of course, the opportunity to meet Her Majesty. Prince Harry, who was recently named a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, told the awardees: “In this rapidly changing world, it is heartening to meet so many inspiring young people gathered here today, who have already stepped up as leaders and improved the lives of so many people across the Commonwealth. You are the hope and optimism the world needs and we will all do whatever we can to support you in it.”

Among the winners are three young Pakistanis, Hassan Mujtaba Zaidi, Mahnoor Syed and Haroon Yasin. Zaidi was recognised for his use of art to help educate marginalised young people in his country.

While Syed was awarded for his start-up Spread the Word which he began by partnering with seven schools to provide workshops to students on issues such as bullying, child abuse, mental and physical health. Haroon Yasin is the founder of Orenda, which teaches children in Pakistan the national curriculum through an engaging digital education model.

Also celebrated is 26-year-old Hauwa Ojeifo, from Nigeria, who was celebrated for her dedicated work in overcoming the stigma around mental health in Nigeria. She runs a women’s support group called She Writes Women, which focuses on mental health support and outreach among some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

Through this organisation, she set up the country’s first 24-hour mental health helpline, which has so far assisted more than 200 women to gain the support they need. Hauwa, who was one of three Nigerians awarded, also operates ‘Safe Places’ – free monthly support groups for women, which include therapy and help from counsellors, coaches and physicians and carries out ‘Hope Visits’ to people in psychiatric hospitals who have not had visitors for a long time.

Midia Shikh Hassan was one of three Canadians to receive the award. Hassan was chosen for her contribution to refugees’ educational and healthcare needs as well as her involvement in many projects tackling social issues through engineering and entrepreneurial design. Hassan is involved in the Refugee Outreach program, which aims to facilitate Syrian refugees’ social integration through technology and entrepreneurial training. She is also co-founder of Dextra, an initiative providing affordable 3D printed prosthetics to refugees living with upper-body amputations. As the Difference Makers’ coordinator, a program founded by the University of Ottawa, she helps students make positive changes in their community through social entrepreneurship and by encouraging them to start their own social ventures to address social issues.

“Being part of the Queen’s Young Leader network will help me further develop my current ventures by providing me with the network, the support and the mentorship from other Queen’s Young Leaders across the Commonwealth countries. It will also open doors for cross-collaboration between all award winners and collaboration between different communities,” said Hassan.

Ayman Sadiq and Zaiba Tahyya both from Dhaka, Bangladesh, were conferred with the prestigious award for their grassroots work in their country. Sadiq, 25, received the award for the work he is doing to improve access to education for young people and Tahyya, 27, for the work she is doing to promote gender equality in society.

Ahmad Fadillah Sellahhuddin from Brunei was awarded for his work to support underprivileged families in his community. He co-founded Projek Bina Ukhwah, a youth movement that aims to create safer and more hygienic living conditions for people in need.

In its first eight months, the group raised more than B$35,000, distributed $6,000 worth of food packs, and built houses for two families living in poor conditions. In addition, the organisation runs a Family Empowerment and Economic Development Programme which mentors families and provides them with funding to start their own small businesses. Sellhhuddin has also been a member of the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council for 14 years, where he raises awareness of HIV/AIDS through education.

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