Shamelle Rice is one of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners of 2016. She founded Jabez House in Barbados which provides vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities to female sex workers.

Shamelle shares her story about founding Jabez House in Barbados - which provides vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities to female sex workers - and discusses why equality in society is so important.

In her own words: Shamelle Rice, Queen's Young Leader 2016

After university I worked as a secondary school teacher for four years. However I have always had an overwhelming desire to assist women, particularly those who are vulnerable and disempowered. In Barbados prostitution is illegal and very taboo, but I discovered that women in the sex work community wanted services and programmes that catered specifically to them as they transitioned out of the work.

Three years ago I founded Jabez House, which provides vocational training and entrepreneurial opportunities to female sex workers in a safe, non-judgmental environment. More than 50 women have gone through the programme and we have worked with another 300 sex workers during our weekly outreach programme. In 2014, I also started a weekly mentorship programme at the juvenile detention facility for girls, to provide them with a support system when they leave.

It is important that women are treated equally in society, because they play a vital role in shaping the history of nations. In Barbados a large majority of households are headed by a female, so equality is vital.

Being chosen as a Queen's Young Leaders Award winner means that I will have the opportunity for unique training and learning experiences, which will help me to assist more women in my community

It is also essential that young women and girls learn to get involved in their communities, because they have so much to offer and share with others. Playing a role in their community is an avenue to start the ‘give back’ to society and to make their mark.

Being chosen as a Queen's Young Leaders Award winner means that I will have the opportunity for unique training and learning experiences, which will help me to assist more women in my community.

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.