London welcomes essay prizewinners

The Commonwealth Essay Competition celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2013. The theme was ‘Opportunity through enterprise’ – the Commonwealth theme for 2013 – and, as ever, participants displayed ingenuity in their approaches to the topic. 

More than 2,000 Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards were presented, with the top four prizes going to New Zealand, Guernsey, Canada and Hong Kong. Chosen from more than 4,500 Senior entries, 19-year-old Katherine McIndoe from Wellington, New Zealand was named as the Senior Prize Winner for her submission ‘To boldly go: a letter to the lost girls’. 

Tabitha Carr, 11, from Guernsey won the Junior Prize for ‘Is change a good thing?’. 

The Essay Competition Awards evening was held in London at the end of 2013. As part of their prize, Katherine and Tabitha were invited to spend a week in London by the Royal Commonwealth Society.


‘I wanted to cry’

I am proud to have won the junior section of the Commonwealth essay competition, especially as it is the first I have entered.

I live in Guernsey – a long way from my invented characters in Botswana – where it might be hard to grow lemons, although we still grow tomatoes!

Winning this competition has been very exciting. When I found out, I felt as if I could do anything and nothing would stand in my way again, as I am dyslexic and writing can be difficult. I wanted to give up, but I have had so much help at school and at the Guernsey Dyslexia Day Centre. I hope dyslexic children everywhere will be encouraged to keep trying.

I had a wonderful awards week in London – from going to Buckingham Palace, seeing the Queen in her car and Daleks in the state rooms to being interviewed at the BBC about selfies!

I wanted to cry when I saw homeless people at the Tube station, as I had never seen this in Guernsey and it seemed wrong.

I have seen so much outside my own small island and it has revealed a bigger world that helps me see my place in the Commonwealth.

– Tabitha Carr


‘Winning the competition has provided me with so many fantastic experiences’

Towards the end of 2012, unequal treatment of women, and the habitual violence perpetrated against women in so many countries, was all over the news. This was largely due to two shocking incidents: the shooting of Malala Yousafzai and the gang rape of a young student on a bus in New Delhi.

I had always been concerned by gender inequality and I suddenly felt that these issues were reaching boiling point and getting the media attention that they deserved. My ‘Letter to the lost girls’ was an attempt to express my frustration with a system that allows a girl like me to be born here in New Zealand and never face any real obstacles, while a girl exactly the same as me can be born on the same planet and spend her life enslaved by the fact that she was born female.

It was such a huge honour to be named the Senior Winner for 2013 – the competition is so large and diverse that it was truly overwhelming to be singled out in this way. Since the announcement was made, I have had so many fantastic experiences and opportunities. Travelling to the other side of the world to receive my award at the New Zealand High Commission in London was very special and, while in the UK, Tabitha and I had the opportunity to visit iconic London landmarks and meet some fantastic people working both in writing (such as journalists at the London Evening Standard) and in development (at the offices of Plan UK).

As 2013 is the 120th anniversary of women gaining universal suffrage in New Zealand, I was invited to functions at parliament and Premier House celebrating New Zealand women’s achievements. I was also invited to parliament to celebrate the Queen’s Commonwealth baton arriving in New Zealand and wrote a message on behalf of New Zealand in the accompanying Baton Book.

Winning the competition has provided me with so many fantastic experiences and opened my eyes to new possibilities, and I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had.

– Katherine McIndoe



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