TWO young Papua New Guineans have been selected by the Young Leaders Programme amongst 60 young people from across the Commonwealth to receive a prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Awards recognise and celebrate exceptional young people aged 18 to 29 in the Commonwealth who are driving change within their communities and transforming people’s lives. Now in its third and penultimate year, the 60 young people announced today become part of the growing Queen’s Young Leaders community, a unique network of influential young change-makers who are coming together and being supported to become an even greater force for good. They will receive their Award from Her Majesty The Queen at a ceremony in London this year.

This year, Award winners are leading projects tackling global issues including education, climate change, gender equality, mental health and disability equality. Theresa Gizoria, 27 years old from Port Moresby, has been chosen in recognition of co-founding UniMums, which supports young mothers at university. 22-year-old Johnetta Lili, also from Port Moresby, has been acknowledged for working to raise awareness of the rights of young people in her community.

“As a Queen’s Young Leader, I look forward to receiving mentorship and guidance to help my project. I truly believe the Award will help me inspire change in Papua New Guinea,” Johnetta Lili said.

Johnetta works to raise awareness of the rights of young people in her community. In 2014 she joined Equal Playing Field, which aims to decrease violence and encourage gender equality. As its site manager, she was responsible for leading 20 volunteers from the University of Papua New Guinea, who used sport to promote gender equality to more than 300 students. She went on to co-found the Carteret Campaign (now The Climate Change Campaign), which works to help people affected by climate change from the Carteret Islands. In addition to raising awareness about climate change, the group runs a book drive for children at schools in the islands. Johnetta was recently awarded a Kokoda Track Foundation leadership scholarship. She is now planning to implement a project in Port Moresby to raise awareness of cancer treatment and prevention.

Theresa Gizoria is dedicated to increasing opportunities for young people, and, in particular, to helping young mothers in tertiary education. She is the founder of UniMums where, together with four others, she supports young mothers at the University of Papua New Guinea. The group provides a mentoring scheme for young mothers, as well as monthly workshops during which they share health tips, teach budgeting skills and hold relaxation sessions. Theresa now hopes to build UniMums’ capacity and expand it to five other national universities.

She also volunteers with Advancing PNG Women Leaders Network, Women Arise PNG, Australia-PNG Emerging Leaders Network and the Kokoda Track Foundation.

She uses these platforms to ensure the voices of young people are taken into account in the political decisionmaking process.

The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme was established in 2014 by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust in partnership with Comic Relief, The Royal Commonwealth Society and the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education, in recognition of The Queen’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.

Each year for four years, 60 Queen’s Young Leaders receive bespoke training, mentoring and networking opportunities, and take part in a week-long residential programme in London, to empower them to build on the work they are leading in their communities which is changing the lives of others for the better.

Dr Astrid Bonfield CBE, Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust said the Queen’s Young Leaders Award is designed to inspire and nurture the talent of exceptional young people from all over the Commonwealth, so that they can create and lead others towards securing positive changes in communities.

“The work being undertaken by the latest cohort of Queen’s Young Leaders is addressing some of the most crucial issues facing the Commonwealth today. We cannot wait to see how their impressive endeavours grow and develop over the course of the year to come and beyond.”