THERE has never been a more opportune time for young people to rise and take up the leadership mantle, says Esanju Maseka.
Esanju is projects and events coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network (CYHRDN).
Last Monday, Esanju was among several young people and dignitaries that commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Nations in London.
Commonwealth Day is celebrated on the second Monday of March every year, and the theme of this year’s anniversary was ‘A Connected Commonwealth’.
Zambia became a member of the Commonwealth at independence in 1964.
To commemorate the occasion, a service was held at Westminster Abbey at which Esanju and several other young people participated in the festivities.
“The two biggest roles given to young people during this service is to be appointed as the official mace bearer and the Commonwealth flag bearer,” Esanju says. “Fifty-three other young people are also selected with the support of high commissions in London, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Pacific Islands Society. The mace was a gift of the Royal Anniversary Trust to The Queen on her role as Head of the Commonwealth.”
A decision was made to give the position of official Commonwealth flag bearer to someone of African origin.
Esanju says it came as an honour when she was selected as the official Commonwealth flag-bearer, representing not only the youth of Zambia but of Africa as well.
Comfort Musonda, a Commonwealth Scholar at University of Leeds, was selected to carry the Zambian flag. Esanju’s role at the beginning of the ceremony included her being accompanied by an escort of Brownies and Scouts from the United Kingdom.
She says she felt “a great sense of pride” as she walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, one of the UK’s most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial for British monarchs.
“The ceremony itself was beautifully aligned with poems, artistic performances such as drumming and singing, representing various cultures from across the Commonwealth,” she says.
After a reiteration of the act of the affirmation to the Commonwealth, the ceremony ended. Esanju’s role included her leading the official Commonwealth delegation, which included the Royal Family, as well as various dignitaries.
She says she met Zambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Muyeba Chikonde and his wife. But the highlight of the occasion for Esanju, one she describes as “the cherry on the cake” was being invited to a reception hosted by Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland where Prince Charles was guest of honour, alongside various diplomats and dignitaries, and young people representing all regions of the Commonwealth.
Esanju, who grew up in Mwinilunga, completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) at Mulungushi University in Kabwe in 2014.
She is currently a Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Bradford pursuing an MSc in Economics and Finance for Development and has a strong passion for development-oriented work. She has worked with PriceWaterHouse Coopers in Zambia and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award-Zambia.
She has also served as a youth worker since 2011, filling a variety of roles such as promoting youth advocacy and participation through Commonwealth Youth Networks and serving on the Restless Development Zambia board.
Esanju says the time has come for young people to take up the mantle of leadership.
“Young people are not leaders of tomorrow,” says Esanju. “They are leaders today.”