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Wed, 11 Dec 2019 14:58 GMT

Commonwealth Celebrates 70th Anniversary with Awards Ceremony that Calls for Hope


Hannah Bardsley - 7DNews London

Wed, 19 Jun 2019 08:58 GMT

The rain dried up, the clouds parted and like magic they did not return. Instead the Commonwealth 70th Anniversary celebration party was filled with warmth, sunshine and a fine selection of lemonades, wine, too…

The event wasn’t just a party but also an awards ceremony for the very first Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards. Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, was in attendance at the ceremony. With the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, he greeted and congratulated the winners.

The Duke was present in his role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, this time congratulating both the young and older winners. His presence at the event added an extra buzz and excitement to both the awards and the occasion. 70 years is a big cause for celebration.

But what does 70 years of the commonwealth mean? 

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland explained it to 7Dnews. She said, “The commonwealth comes from our common identity, our common history, our common language, our common institutions and our common parliaments, and so they did something which had never been done before.”

“I think it’s a quite remarkable achievement, the British empire was one on which the sun never set, many of the countries struggled to get their independence… … so you would have thought this was going to be a separation.”

But the separation grew into a global union within which there are now 53 participant countries which spread across all continents. 

“We may have been separated because we decided to take independence, but we remain interdependent.”

Baroness Scotland sees this interdependence as an example for the world. A way to stop climate change, tackle poverty and inequality, provide food for the world and create a brighter and better future. How do we do this? Scotland jokingly refers to the comments that suggest she has been turning the Commonwealth into “I see a need in one country and introduce them to another country where they are already effectively dealing with the issue.”

Scotland’s vision of the Commonwealth is one that transcends politics and is instead focused on developing NGO work. In a time of Brexit negotiations, this vision of global unity and collaborations is rather refreshing.

These were not only the views of the Secretary-General but of all those in attendance at the Commonwealth Garden party. The guests in attendance were varying in nationality, profession and age; the one thing they had in common was their link with the Commonwealth. 

The Innovation awards are a way of encouraging roots-up development that can then be shared with the rest of the Commonwealth. These small, growing, or now big, businesses all fall within one of the core values of the Commonwealth Charter. 

To be eligible to win the competition they had to meet one of the five Ps. People, prosperity, planet, peace and partnership. There were three prizes for each category, with the winners coming from St Lucia, to Pakistan, to Australia.

7Dnews was luckily enough to be able to interview Leilua Lino the 18-year-old winner in the Peace category, for creating a Peace Garden now used by the Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) to assist victims of domestic and sexual abuse in their healing process. 

Leilua created the garden as a way to bring peace back into her life following her father raping her at age 9. Leilua took 3 years to let anyone know what had happened. In 2011 she was evacuated from her home by the SVSG. She created the Peace Garden in 2017 and testified against her father in court in 2019. He was sentenced to 29 years in prison. 

Leilua now works with the SVSG and her mother as a voice for change and victims, speaking at schools, shelters and communities all around Samoa. She has inspired more than 100 children to come forward and report sexual abuse. Leilua’s message for the world is simple, “If I can speak so can you. Report what happened, and you will help other’s too”. 

Also, amongst the winners was Nitesh Kumar Jangir, from India, who won under the category of people. He created Saans; a breathing support device for neonatals, that can be powered in numerous ways making it usable in areas that struggle to access normal resources such as water, electricity and even healthcare. The specialised CPAP machine can be operated manually and requires minimal levels of training and skill to use.

Rosette Muhoza founder of My Green Home, was the only female winner in the Planet category. The Rwandan woman created the organisation to deal with urban waste in a way that would best impact the community and the environment.

After speaking to the winners it’s not surprising to see why the Secretary-General has so much hope. There is no doubt the world is filled with incredible people working and fighting for change.

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