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Meet the inspiring young winners of the 2018 GirlBoss Awards

Alexia Hilbertou (centre) and the GirlBoss award winners

This week, a new generation of women entrepreneurs have been recognised and celebrated at the 2018 Girl Boss Awards. The awards were the first of their kind in more ways than one – particularly considering that they celebrated a new, young generation of innovative thinkers, with all 400 entrants aged between 11 and 18. Six young women were crowned winners in their categories for their efforts in growing young Māori leaders, reducing pollution and furthering conversations about youth mental health.

They were held in Auckland on Wednesday, aptly timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. After receiving 400 nominations, the judging panel whittled down to just six winners, but not without some difficulty deciding.

GirlBoss founder Alexia Hilbertidou said the GirlBoss Awards were that creation of the Awards was about celebrating women who could be New Zealand’s future leaders and CEOs.

“These young women are inspirational as they challenge stereotypes and make a difference in their community. We’ve loved seeing such a high calibre of entries from Invercargill to Kerikeri, and selecting six winners was very tough.”

Rahiri Makuini Edwards-­Hammond, a 17-year-old from Wairoa in Hawke’s Bay, received the overall supreme ‘Trailblazer Award’ for her work with developing young Māori leaders. She co-founded Project Rangatahi, which connects young Māori with mentors, internships and opportunities that will help them get further in their career. Each year, the programme accepts 100 applicants and helps them develop and grow in their chosen career path. What’s more, she is also a big advocate for encouraging young Māori to pursue careers in STEM fields and grow the use of te reo.

Rahiri Makuini Edwards-­Hammond

Trade Me delivery manager and judge for the awards Moana Roberts said even with the high calibre of entries, Edwards-Hammond stood out from the crowd.

“Not only has she been involved in a massive range of events and initiatives, but she’s also identified how important it is to connect young Māori with leaders and show them what’s possible. Project Rangatahi is a fantastic model ­– it’s humbling and inspiring to see what Rahiri has made happen.”

Mikayla Stokes, a 17-year-old from Western Springs in Auckland, won the STEAM award for her work inventing a “internet of things” particulate pollution sensor, which she designed, adapted, programmed and soldered herself. The device took more than six months to get the coding right, and measures the air and sends pollution readings through to a laptop. Idealog previously profiled her last year, where she spoke of the diversity problem in tech.

“It’s hard getting my friends to take an interest in tech-related stuff because it’s intimidating. It’s like getting into a brand new sport. Imagine there’s an all-boys team and you are the only girl – it’s tough.”

But Stokes is partway to solving that goal, as she now runs STEAM events for young Kiwis, teaching them robotics and how to code in a fun and engaging way. She is also in the process of creating a new product – an automated hydroponic vertical garden for smaller properties that have no space to plant a garden in.

Meanwhile, the Innovation Award went to Tulsi Lathia, a 17-year-old from Christchurch, who was inspired to invent a device that will help locate people stuck under rubble following a natural disaster, following the devastating Christchurch Earthquakes. Lathia is also the co-founder of a social enterprise called Spoonful of Spice, which is creating a book filled with recipes and stories from refugees to bridge the gap between their cultures and New Zealand culture. Proceeds from the books sold will go towards helping refugee families in Christchurch.  


Tulsi Lathia

The winner of the Community Award was 18-year-old Zoe Palmer, who campaigned to save the 24/7 youth mental health crisis service in Nelson after a restructure at the DHB meant the service would no longer be available at all hours, and focus on all ages rather than youth. She also presented a petition to Parliament with aiming to keep the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) crisis line.

On a similar note, 13-year-old Green Wilson from Massey, Auckland received the Emerger Leader award for her work raising awareness around mental health, as well as for her work on providing Parliament with recommendations about how the mental health system could be better suited to young people.

And for the Enterprise Award, 15-year-old Simone Renee Peers from Waikato took it out for starting her own business at the age of 13 selling hot nuts through vending machines around Hamilton. With some assistance from her parents, she sourced the business on Trade Me and scaled it up, with now a number of outlets in the region.

Each of the winners received $1000, with the supreme winner taking home $2000. Hilbertou says judging off all of the talent she saw in the awards, the future looks promising.

“These young women are the role models of tomorrow, what they’ve achieved already is remarkable. I can’t wait to see what they do next and I know everyone involved is looking forward to celebrating the alumni and meeting more GirlBoss Award winners next year.”

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