At the prestigious Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work, Maya Kirti Nanan, the visionary Founder of the Autism Siblings and Friends Network (ASFN), achieved a remarkable milestone by being crowned the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year for 2023.
The accolade was presented to her by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, and the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC. The award ceremony took place on Thursday, 14th September 2023, at the magnificent St James’s Palace in London.
Based in Trinidad and Tobago, ASFN is a non-profit organization that strives to create opportunities for individuals with special needs. At the heart of their operations is “Rahul’s Clubhouse,” an autism center designed to provide equal access to developmental and social programs for those with autism. ASFN is currently actively developing educational, social, and skills programs that will benefit over 10,000 individuals on the autism spectrum. Ms. Nanan’s remarkable contributions also earned her the regional prize for the Caribbean.
This recognition, often referred to as the Commonwealth Youth Awards, serves to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of young people aged 15 to 29 in strengthening democracy and advancing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The award ceremony was held in conjunction with the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting, attended by government ministers, senior officials, youth leaders, and stakeholders as part of a week-long ministerial gathering.
The glittering awards ceremony also marked the 50th anniversary of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, demonstrating the Commonwealth Secretariat’s ongoing commitment to empowering and amplifying the voices and work of youth across its 56 member states.
Out of nearly 1,000 entries received from 39 Commonwealth countries, Maya Kirti Nanan emerged as a shining example of impactful youth leadership. A panel of judges, including high commissioners, development experts, and youth leaders from across the Commonwealth, selected the shortlisted candidates and regional winners. Each of the 20 finalists will receive a trophy, a certificate, and £1,000 as recognition of their outstanding work, while the regional winners will receive an additional £2,000.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General congratulated all 50 awardees for their remarkable contributions, emphasizing the value of recognizing the positive impact young people make in the world. His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, commended the finalists, stating that their work serves as a testament to the power of opportunities and encouragement given to young people.
With the 2023 awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of these remarkable young individuals, the Commonwealth looks forward to continuing its support of youth-led initiatives and to the 2024 Awards, scheduled to be held in March next year as part of the regular event cycle.