Twenty-five-year-old ttorney-at-law Michelle Thomas of Jamaica is a finalist in the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work.
Thomas, who hails from Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew, is going up against 16 other young people from 13 countries across the Commonwealth, among them the founder of a youth-led organisation in Papua New Guinea that uses sport as a tool to end violence against women, and the owner of a Nigerian company which uses geo-mapping to recycle waste.
For her part, Thomas is founder of ‘No Crime Movement’ that provides a platform to build support for a society based on respect for human rights. The project targets over 3,000 young people including women who were subjected to sexual abuse, young people who are in prison, and those living with disabilities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people (LGBT) youth. Her work emphasises an increase in citizen involvement and community-level policing.
The winner — the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year — will be announced at an awards ceremony at Marlborough House in London this Wednesday, March 15.
Repeated attempts to reach Thomas last week were unsuccessful, but in an interview with our sister publication All Woman a year ago, the young woman said social involvement is almost second nature to her.
“For me, to be a lawyer and not give back to society would be the highest level of hypocrisy, because I am who I am today because of my involvement and passion to serve my country and stand out,” she said then.
She is director of Cultural Programmes at Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture, Arts and Nationalism, a member of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassador Network, the Kingston and St Andrew Festival Queen for 2016 and third-place finisher in the national competition, a Governor General I Believe ambassador, special projects chairperson at Educatours Jamaica, a member of the Kingston Open Bible’s youth ministry, mentor for the Denham Town High School debate team, and a litany of others.
The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work celebrate outstanding adolescents and young adults aged 15-29 from Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Americas, Africa and Europe, who are leading initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace-building.
This year’s group of finalists are recognised for spearheading projects that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals — a set of 17 global targets that governments have committed to achieve by 2030.
“Through their own initiative, young leaders in communities across the world are delivering on the ambitious agenda set by governments on everything from eliminating hunger to protecting the environment,” said Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat.
“All of the outstanding finalists… have demonstrated that young people are central to bringing forward positive change. Through these awards, we seek to celebrate their achievements and inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and encourage high level support for youth-led development efforts.”
The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges including representatives of Commonwealth High Commissions, Commonwealth organisations and young leaders.
One of the judges, Angelique Pouponneau, vice-chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, commented that “each of the youth awardees’ stories has brought inspiration and faith that today and tomorrow are in good hands with young people as equal partners of development”.
In addition to The Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, regional young persons of the year for Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Americas, Africa and Europe will also be named on Wednesday. The shortlisted finalists are: Michael Sheldrick, Australia; Towfique Ahmad Khan and Ukhengching Marma, Bangladesh; Ishita Aggarwal, Canada; Tricia Teekah, Guyana; Michelle Thomas, Jamaica; Charles Lipenga, Malawi; Charles Immanuel Akhimien, Owobi Emmanuel, and Destiny Frederick, Nigeria; Hadiqa Bashir, Pakistan; Jacqueline Joseph and Raylance Mesa, Papua New Guinea; Krystle Reid, Sri Lanka; R Tamira L V Browne, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines; Charles Batte, Uganda; and Jonathan Andrews and Yentyl Williams, United Kingdom.