Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma is a 25 year-old Zambian doctor already making an impact in her community. Kaoma who says she won’t rest “until all women and girls in Zambia live their lives to their maximum potential,” has promised herself to be “on the frontlines, speaking, inspiring, uplifting millions one life at a time.”

Kaoma is a women’s health advocate, and she is among the 25 Africans who won the 2017 Queen’s Young Leader Award. The 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 U.K. during which they will collect their award from Her Majesty The Queen of England. With this support, award winners will be expected to continue developing the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.

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Natasha Salifyanji Kaoma talking with Prince Harry and a fellow winner. Photo: Twitter/ Queens Leaders

Kaoma’s focus has been on menstrual hygiene. She co-founded Copper Rose Zambia in 2015 while still in medical school. The organisation sought to teach women the importance of sexual and reproductive health. This led to a drive to launch fundraising to provide menstrual hygiene kits to girls in rural areas. The organisation which started as a mentorship programme to pair 1st year students with senior students at the Copperbelt University, has through its Candid Pride Campaign and Woman4Her programmes educated over 5,000 teenagers about reproductive health.

2017 Recipients of The Queen’s Young Leaders Awards Photo: Facebook/ Queens Young Leaders

Kaoma’s goal is to reach a million females through sexual and reproductive health programmes over the next five years (2021).

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Out of the 59 recipients of the Queen’s Young Leader Award, Africans dominated with 25 recipients. Other African countries represented include Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda which topped Africa’s list with three recipients each, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Seychelles and Sierra Leone got two candidates each and one person each from Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia.

The Queen’s Young Leader Award started in 2014. The winners were awarded with medals from the Queen. The award is a testimony of how African youths have seized their future despite the odds they face. It also reiterates the theme of the African Union, “harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth”.