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Nigeria’s Hauwa Ojeifo, Isaac Ezirim & Kennedy Ekezie Joseph receive Queen’s Young Leaders Award

Hauwa OjeifoIsaac Ezirim, and Kennedy Ekezie Joseph were in 2017 chosen as three of the final ever Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners in recognition of the lead they are taking in their communities to change lives.

The 3 bright youngsters were presented with the award on Tuesday, receiving it from the Queen herself.Hauwa is dedicated to 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.

Words cannot describe this moment. . First off, Alhamdulillah! . I really can’t explain it. The journey… God. It has been ROUGH! But only Allah knew in those moments that this was going to happen. . In those moments of severe depression, mania, psychosis and suicidal thoughts, I would’ve never believed that this was ahead of me. I just didn’t feel I was worthy of life. . But somehow, I am here. I didn’t do it myself. My mother, my father… My family went through hell so that I could stay alive. . Mentors and coaches like @kolaosinowo @lanreolusola @udo_okonjo @drmaymunah @josephineeffahchukwuma picked me up and made me stand tall… And I’ll forever be grateful because you saw things in me that even I didn’t see. . My friends have rallied around me even in confusion and YOU have made me continue this work because you read, like, comment, call, email, give feedback and simply allow me and She Writes Woman be a part of your healing and stories. . Thank you so much @hijabtytude @raddybyirada and @made_creations for putting together my wardrobe through out my trip. And that custom glittery shoe by @kievadesuwa couldn’t have been more appropriate. Thank you my friend. . “Know that if people are impressed with you, in reality they are impressed with the beauty of Allah’s covering of your sins.” — Ibn al-Jawzee (ra) #NuffSaid . To #TeamSWW, you have been incredible. I hope you realise that WE did this. That because of you, I can stand here today. . I love every single person. I have cried and cried out of sheer gratitude to God and man. . I promise to continue to use my voice to push matters of the heart. Issues that truly matter. I promise to strive till my dying breath to see mental health as a human issue. With the full backing of the Commonwealth and Her Majesty The Queen, my work has just begun. . With LOVE, HOPE AND SUPPORT, Hauwa Ojeifo. #QueensYoungLeaders

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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 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.

Isaac is a computer programmer who teaches coding to teenagers in low-income areas. He is the founder of Teens Can Code, which is currently training 200 teenagers from the Ajegunle, Alimosho and Ejigbo communities of Lagos about computer coding and how to build web and mobile applications using the same tools that are used by professionals in the tech industry.

Good bye Cambridge. London in a moment.

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Isaac also created a Teens Hub, where teenagers from the community can go to learn about coding and create applications together. It hosts monthly demonstration days for teenagers to help them build their entrepreneurial skills: participants are tasked with developing and pitching a tech-based approach they themselves can build to help solve a problem in the community.

19-year-old Kennedy works to promote women’s rights in Nigeria. He is the founder of the Calabar Youth Council for Women’s Rights (CYCWR), which supports the rights of women in the areas of female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic abuse, forced child marriage and access to education for girls.

Today, as part of activities for the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, I visited the Commonwealth House @commonwealth_sec in London to meet with Secretary General Patricia Scotland, and Nigerian Ambassador to the UK Justice George Adesola Oguntade to discuss the role of young leaders in building the Commonwealth. As the first (Black) woman to head the Commonwealth, Secretary-General Scotland is such an inspiring figure who is unyielding in her resolve to bring young people to the forefront in deciding on issues that affect the Commonwealth. We also visited 10 Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Theresa May and Sir John Major (again!). The most important takeaway from the@meetings today was the importance of young leaders to firstly shape our own lives, and come together to collectively build the future. According to Secretary General Scotland, “alone we are invisible, but together we are invincible” OUR TIME IS NOW!!! #conmonwealth #london #nigeria #youth #timesnow #do #young #nottooyoungtorun #qyl #queensyoungleader

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The CYCWR works with rural community members, to educate them on the dangers of gender-based violence. CYCWR has worked with The Girl Generation to end the practice of FGM in over 200 communities, and has worked with the government to run safe houses for victims of FGM. Kennedy is currently working with the government to introduce anti-FGM laws in his state, and anti-FGM and gender-based violence education into the curriculum of all secondary schools.

We’re so proud of you guys! Keep flying high.

Photo Credit: shewriteswoman, Isaac Damian Ezirim, kennedyekezie, @RoyalFamily

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