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5 things you need to know about the Commonwealth

5 things you need to know about the Commonwealth

So, you’ve heard of the Commonwealth Games – but what about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, also known as CHOGM?

It’s happening this month, and will see heads of Government, young people, business leaders and civil society from across the Commonwealth flying into London, to address shared global challenges and how to create a better future for their citizens, particularly young people.

The modern Commonwealth has been around since 1949, but what exactly is it, and why is it important? Here’s what you need to know.

1. The Commonwealth is made up of a diverse range of nations and cultures

Countries in the Commonwealth span the Pacific, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. Of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth, 31 are small states, 25 of which are island nations, with a population of 1.5 million or lower.

The Commonwealth is also home to the second largest country in the world – India, which has a population of 1,353,014,094.

In contrast the smallest nation is Nauru. It has a tiny population of just 10,000 people, but this hasn’t held it back from being the most successful country at the Commonwealth Games.

2. The Commonwealth has had a huge impact on peoples’ lives

The Commonwealth has been a leader in the fight for gender equality and economic empowerment and against climate change, and has given a voice to the large youth population living in the Commonwealth nations.

Over the past decade, the Commonwealth has put child, early and forced marriage at top of its political agenda. As a result, there has been remarkable progress on this in many Commonwealth countries including Uganda, Mozambique, Zambia, Bangladesh and Malawi – where our youth activists campaigned tirelessly on the issue, with your support.

Youth campaigners ending child marriage in Malawi
Memory and her fellow youth activists successfully campaigned to make child marriage illegal in Malawi.

3. The majority of the Commonwealth’s population is young

The Commonwealth has a population of 2.4 billion people, and 60% of this population is under the age of 29.

In fact, 1 in 3 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 live in Commonwealth countries – that’s 640 million people!

Bringing all of these young people together in the Commonwealth is an exciting opportunity to unleash the collective power of youth, to create meaningful change around the world.

4. The Commonwealth is constantly growing

The Commonwealth of Nations was traditionally made up of states formerly under the rule of the British Empire, but is now open to anyone who wants to join, on a case-by-case basis.

At its birth in 1931, the Commonwealth consisted of five states. Now, it has 53 members. The newest country is Rwanda, who joined in 2009, while this February, Gambia was re-admitted after it left in 2013.

5. We’re standing with brave girls from Uganda and Kenya at this year’s CHOGM

We know the Commonwealth is uniquely placed to drive individual and collective action. Now we want to build on the work Governments have done to stop child, early and forced marriage, and end the exploitation of girls.

Our youth advocates, Viola and Norah from Uganda, and Hope and Georgina from Kenya, are all attending the Commonwealth Summit.

They’ll be asking their Governments to push for commitments to be made by all the Heads of State, to end the exploitation of girls and protect their rights.

We’ll be standing with them – and you can too, by signing their petition, which they’ll deliver to their Government representatives during the first two days of the summit.

Norah is a youth advocate from Uganda
Norah, 23, has been part of our Safer Cities programme in Kampala for the last four years. “When the girls around me are exploited, I am not safe either. Let’s re-write the story,” she says.

Follow Bekky on Twitter @BekkyAshmore. This blog was co-written by our Policy and Advocacy Assistant, Charis Charles.