Queen Elizabeth honours young Sri Lankan changemakers

Two youngsters from Sri Lanka, Rakitha Malewana and Senel Wanniarachchi qualifies for the Queen’s Young Leader Award.

The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.

Winners of this prestigious award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty The Queen.

Sri Lanka’s Rakitha Malewana was recognised for his a new HIV nano-vaccine.

Rakitha first began working with people affected by HIV/AIDS in 2011, when he started visiting slum areas to teach science, maths and English to the children of people living with the disease. In 2012, he formed ideanerd Sri Lanka, which encourages schoolchildren to get involved in scientific research, and promotes an innovation culture. So far, it has helped more than 20,000 students conduct scientific investigations. In 2015, Rakitha co-founded United Youth Consortium to raise awareness of sexual reproductive health issues, and provide support and counselling to families living with HIV.

Senel Wanniarachchi uses social media to inform and engage members of the community, especially women and young people, on issues that affect them. His longstanding love of writing first prompted him to use social media platforms to tell the stories of ordinary people in his community. The posts became so popular that he was invited to write a regular column about contemporary issues from a youth perspective for the national newspaper The Nation. In 2015, Senel co-founded Hashtag Generation, a youth movement committed to creating online and offline platforms to encourage discussions around youth engagement and gender equality. One of its projects We Govern Sri Lanka (#WeGovernSL) holds training programmes for women who want to learn how to use the internet to become more engaged in national and local issues.

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