Three disabled campaigners are some of the first ever to receive a prestigious Queen’s Young Leader Award.
Ashwini Angadi, Leroy Phillips and Mohammad Yaaseen Edoo are part of Leonard Cheshire’s global Young Voices movement. They are part of a network of dedicated campaigners from around the world who speak out for the rights of disabled people.
The group were three of 60 selected from 53 countries across the Commonwealth to receive the high profile accolade. The search for winners, aged 18-29, was launched by The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace last summer.
One of the winners, Ashwini Angadi who has a visual impairment, was brought up in a poor rural community in India. The 21-year-old fought to get an education, and overcame the odds to graduate from Bangalore University with outstanding grades.
Ashwini has since developed her career in the IT industry and now works as a facilitator for Young Voices in India, and campaigns for the rights of disabled people. She also received a ‘UN Youth Courage Award for Education’ on 12th July 2013 as part of the celebrations for Malala Day.
Leroy Phillips recently spoke at a global education conference about his experience of growing up with a visual impairment in Guyana. The 24-year-old said: “Acquiring an education wasn’t easy for me as I faced intense discrimination because of my disability. There were no trained teachers or assistive technologies. At times I was ignored in the classroom altogether.”
Now a campaigner for inclusive education, Leroy went on to speak about the National Disability Act, which Guyana passed in 2010 — an act that will give thousands of children like him the opportunity to learn and succeed in life.
Mohammad Yaaseen Edoo was refused entry to school by the headmaster due to his disability. He grew up in Mauritius and had no wheelchair or other accessible transport, which left him feeling lonely and isolated.
He said: “It was the support of an amazing primary school teacher which made all the difference. He helped me for nine months on a voluntary basis, so I could take my Certificate of Primary Education – I passed with flying colours.”
Mohammad was thrilled to be offered the chance to go to a mainstream secondary school. He was given a wheelchair and was picked up daily by a van which had a lift for his wheelchair. He explains how the experience was life-changing: “For the first time in my life I was in a class with other children. It was a great and enriching experience through which I made friends and felt like every other student.”
Tiziana Oliva, International Director at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “We are incredibly proud of Ashwini, Leroy and Mohammad who have campaigned tirelessly to change lives and give a voice to disabled people, who are often shut away or ignored.
“This prestigious award enables us to celebrate and recognise the achievement of these talented campaigners, who could be our future leaders. They are all absolutely delighted and look forward to going to Buckingham Palace in June to receive the award from Her Majesty the Queen.”
The award is part of The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme, a unique new initiative, run in partnership with Comic Relief, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and the Royal Commonwealth Society. It aims to enable young people to step-up as leaders and improve the lives of people across the Commonwealth.
About Leonard Cheshire
Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK. Visit: www.leonardcheshire.org