Cape Town - From developing technology that creates social change, to helping youth define their identity - a group of young influential change-makers has emerged in South Africa and are making a royal mark.
Chantelle de Abreu, Jessica Dewhurst, Lethabo Letube, Emma Dicks, all from Cape Town, Aditi Lachman, Farai Mubaiwa - both from Johannesburg, and Nosipho Belle from Durban, have been recognised by the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme and have received awards over the past three years since 2015.
The awards recognise and celebrate exceptional young people between the ages of 18 and 29 in Commonwealth countries who are driving change within their communities.
De Abreu, 28, a winner for 2017, has committed her life to helping marginalised young people pursue careers in sport through her Cape Town-based organisation, Educating Athletes.
She provides academic placements, tuition, mentoring, and counselling for young sportsmen and women.
“They are future leaders and what motivates me the most is seeing the impact of the work on them - it has had a ripple effect on communities as these young people go back to their communities and are able to influence change”.
For Letube, 25, a winner for 2016, growing up in Langa township, opened her eyes to the reality that violence and gangsterism placed a limit on her freedom and the choices that young people had regarding their lives.
She started Project Playground, a play centre that give pupils a safe place to go after school.
The children take part in activities including dance, drama, music and sport and receive a hot meal each day.
The centre also help young people with disabilities, who are often regarded as social outcasts, to be accepted by the community.
Letube also chairs a violence and crime intervention initiative called Great Corners.
“We change areas notorious for crime into safe places by providing leadership training to the youth who, in turn, help influence their peers”.
And in Nyanga township, Mentor Me To Success, started by Belle, 26, who now lives in Durban, has found mentors at universities and young graduates to help high school pupils pursue studies at universities.
For Dewhurst, 24, a 2016 winner, a recent achievement by young women she trained through the Edmund Rice Network for South Africa, is a validation that their human rights training is working.
And IT enthusiast, Dicks, 27, a winner for 2015 winner, has encouraged young people to use technology to create social change by generating solutions through Code for Cape Town. Mubaiwa, 21, a 2017 winner and a member of the Student Representative Council at Stellenbosch University, received the award on the basis of her work for Africa Matters and the #EndRapeCulture Campaign at Stellenbosch University.
EndRapeCulture is a nationwide campaign that aims to end rape culture and dismantle patriarchy, particularly at institutions of higher learning.
“Victims of rape often sit in the same class with their attackers because students are more likely to be expelled for plagiarism than rape, ” she said.
According to Effie Blythe, of the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, the award recipients were recognised for the incredible work they have done in making communities stronger.
They will now 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.
They will also receive their award from Queen Elizabeth at a ceremony in London next year.