Shimla: On the 60th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth, Sarika Katoch, a youth development worker from Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, was one of the special guests invited to the Commonwealthâ€™s headquarters at Marlborough House in London on 9 March 2009 for Commonwealth Day. On its 60th anniversary the group left behind its colonial past, becoming a free and equal association which has grown from 8 countries to 53 members.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who is Head of the Commonwealth, herself attended Commonwealth Day reception and said, “Together, we should continue to work hard to deal with todayâ€™s challenges so that the young people of todayâ€™s Commonwealth can realize their aspirations.”
Sarika is also a regional Youth Caucus Representative for India and the Chair for Asia, a position which has seen her become heavily involved in Commonwealth activities. One such activity she works on is taking part in plays organised in local communities, where actors perform anywhere from on the streets to in schools, educating people about HIV/AIDS.
Sarika was also part of the Commonwealth Observer Group present in Ghana for the December 2008 elections, where she was the Youth representative on the team that was led by Baroness Valerie Amos.
On being asked whether the Commonwealth is relevant today, she responded with another question: â€œHow can national and international policies be made which affect young people without even consulting us? That is where the Commonwealth comes in.â€
â€œThe Commonwealth is an organisation which treats young people as the solution by giving us a platform to speak out and make our voices heard,â€ added Sarika, who was also part of a planning team looking ahead to the Commonwealth Youth Forum, which takes place just before the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago this November.