Amazing courage and leadership of Youth Courage Awards winners

September 22, 2014

There are nine winners of the 2014 Youth Courage Awards - and every one of them has a remarkable story to tell.

Aged from 17 to 27, they come from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. They have struggled for the rights of young people to go to school and to overcome obstacles to education such as child marriage, discrimination and disablities.

The awards are presented by the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. They recognise and honour youth who have personally demonstrated courage and leadership and acted as agents of change for universal education.The winners will receive their Youth Courage Awards at the #UpForSchool Youth Rally at New York University on September 22.

You can read about each of the nine recipients of the 2014 Youth Courage Awards below. You can also read about last year's winners.

Nangyalai Attal

Nangyalai Attal, 26, from Afghanistan

Born to illiterate parents, Attal walked 16km to a boys' school as there was no girls' school in his area. With his mother’s encouragement, Attal created a makeshift “classroom” for local girls in his family’s kitchen using bits of charred wood to write lessons on the kitchen wall. The kitchen girls' school was a first for their valley. As word spread, more girls showed up. Attal created shifts to accommodate the growing numbers, then in 2005 an official girls' school was built.

Munira Khalif

Munira Khalif, 17, USA   

Munira parent's fled the gruesome Somali civil war, which has left countless displaced and suffering at the hands of famine and violence. With this in mind, Munira began her education advocacy at age 13. She founded an NGO, Lighting the Way, galvanizing East African youth to empower girls through education. LTW provides a platform for young people to raise their voices and work together to solve some of the world toughest humanitarian issues. Munira also aided the passage of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2011, making child marriage a priority in US foreign policy, and in 2013 became a part of the Violence Against Women’s Act.

Beyan Pewee

Beyan Flomo Pewee, 18, from Liberia     

Beyan was born in the slums of Konyamah, Guinea, in 1996 during the Liberian civil war. Beyan founded a youth-led NGO called Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL-Liberia) that is committed to building the capacity of young people, giving them the bravery and the platform to stand up and raise their voices for education. As a strong education advocate, Beyan also works closely with the Office of the President, Republic of Liberia H.E Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Ministry of Education to execute education programs.

Shweta Ketti

Shweta Katti, 20, from India         

Shweta grew up in a brothel in one of South Asia's largest and oldest red light areas - Kamatipura, in Mumbai, India. Shweta faced abuse and sexual violation throughout her life. At 16, she worked intensively to make up for her lost years of education. Now Shweta is driven by her passion to not have other girls go through what she went through. She is studying psychology and speaks at international events to be able to guide and support girls who have gone through trafficking and abuse to become leaders in society.

Claire Naylor

Claire Naylor, 25, from the UK

Claire co-founded Women LEAD in 2010 to empower young women in Nepal to take leadership positions alongside men. It’s the first and only leadership development organisation for young women, led by young women, in Nepal. In three years, Claire has led Women LEAD's expansion from a two-week initiative serving 28 girls to an organisation that has served 650 youth. She has helped create a safe space for hundreds of girls. She has introduced the concept of mentoring and professional development in a country where it is still rare and she advocates for women’s leadership training in industries that often do not support it, like engineering and technology.

Joannes Yimbesalu

Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu, 26, from Cameroon   

Joannes is the founder of HOPE for Children Cameroon, a community NGO with the aim of educating every child one school and one village at a time. His organisation seeks to bring hope to voiceless children, mainly the underprivileged and those living with disability by providing them with access to quality education and the tools required to maximise their potential, building a stronger generation of young people. Since 2011 Joannes’ organisation has sponsored over 300 children in five schools by providing them with basic school supplies and over 500 other children have benefitted form their back-to-school challenge.

Salyne El Samarany

Salyne El Samarany, 27, from Lebanon

Salyne taught in North Lebanon in an under-resourced school where basic supplies such as chalk were scarce, the infrastructure was unsafe and just one of the seven teachers serving 205 students had a university degree. As CEO of Teach For Lebanon, Salyne helped expand educational opportunity to more than 4000 children. The students include Palestinian and Syrian refugees, orphans and street children. In a country where close to 60% of primary students repeat a grade, over half of all teachers have no university degree and the average age of a tenured teacher is 58, 27-year-old Salyne is spearheading efforts to mobilise a generation of leaders who bring energy, innovative practice and a sense of mission to the field.

Adama Kamara

Adama Kamara, 17, from Sierra Leone

Adama was forced out of school because her parents sold her into marriage, against her will, to a man twice her age when she was 13. After she was married she was too scared to have sex and so her husband started to beat her. Adama ran away from her husband and her parents would not take her back into their home. She joined a community youth group, where she met girls with a similar experience. Since then she went back to school and is an active advocate to end child marriage in Sierra Leone, in Africa, and around the world.

Rabia Faridi

Rabia Faridi, 25, from Pakistan

Rabia a young village girl who believes the spread of powerful words can change the ideologies of thought about Pakistan, education and women empowerment. Through her writing, public speaking and debates, Rabia exposes and highlights the root causes of illiteracy in rural Pakistan. Rabia has also organised several events all over her country with educational leaders to discuss the problems present in Pakistan’s educational system and the weaknesses of teaching methods in relation to underserved and marginalised students.