Seini Fisi’Ihoi is one of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners of 2016.

Seini volunteers for a number of local organisations in Papua New Guinea (PNG), including the Advancing PNG Women Leaders Network, which supports women in management. Here she talks about why equality for women is so important.

In her own words: Seini Fisi’Ihoi, Queen's Young Leader 2016

I believe that in order to move forward we must learn from our past. While we cannot know all of the answers and may not always make perfect decisions, we can at least minimise the negative impact of our choices by learning from previous generations.

I have always had an interest in leadership, but when I was a young girl this often seemed like an unrealistic goal, even though there were female role models I looked up to. However, my curiosity to challenge norms and identify a leadership style that resonated with me, drove me to share what I know because I wanted to help and support others.

I am only one person that represents hundreds of leaders from Papua New Guinea who are working hard to make positive change

Many women across the world still do not have equality. I recently travelled to some remote areas of the country and witnessed the challenges of my people. The standard of living in villages and the issues families face with regard to access and transportation was painful to see. Women were walking kilometres with tens of kilos of food on their backs to sell at markets which did not even guarantee daily sales. There were also women serving as teachers, nurses and health workers who were paid much less than those living in urban areas.

It is often said that women's empowerment is closely related to having a steady source of income. How much more wonderful would it be though to know that there is transparency and fairness in how much we earn and that what we get is certainly what we deserve?

The idea that Her Majesty the Queen is recognising the efforts of young people has also inspired people to look towards their youth and see the potential future leaders

I think it is important that young women and girls learn to get involved in their communities as we have a social obligation to give back and not leave behind our 'wantoks' (countrymen).

During my last trip around Southern Highlands and Gulf Provinces, we managed to get donations of sanitation packs, including bathing soap, menstrual pads and toothbrushes, from a local company. They were small, everyday items but they meant a lot to the women in those remote areas and helped them to feel connected to other areas of Papua New Guinea. We used the donations to emphasise the message that while we may be from different areas, we face the same issues and we must never feel alone.

The idea that Her Majesty the Queen is recognising the efforts of young people, has also inspired people to look towards their youth and see the potential future leaders. I appreciate seeing how inspired others are of my Award and actually when I think about it, the Award is theirs too. I am only one person that represents hundreds of leaders from Papua New Guinea who are working hard to make positive change.

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. Find out more on The Queen's Young Leaders' website.​