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Malala meets Queen

Earlier today, Her Majesty The Queen and Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Earl and The Countess of Wessex marked Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey.

The Observance launched the 2014 Commonwealth theme ‘Team Commonwealth’.

International campaigner, Malala Yousafzai gave a powerful address to assembled guests, reminding them that “In many parts of the world – including within the Commonwealth – access to education is denied to children and girls are the most affected…We need to…invest more on education to build up a bright future and protect children suffering from terrorism, child labour, child trafficking and gender abuse such as female genital mutilation…

“The future success of the Commonwealth – like the future success of any team – depends on the next generation. Today’s children will be tomorrow’s leaders– tomorrow’s politicians, tomorrow’s businesspeople, tomorrow’s doctors and tomorrow’s teachers…"

In her Commonwealth Day Message, HM The Queen said “Experiences of life differ widely throughout the Commonwealth, and we each make contributions from sometimes very different viewpoints. But we are committed to the same goals. Together we offer each other encouragement and draw strength from this mutual support.

“The understanding that we belong together, and are able, through teamwork, to achieve far more than we could do alone, has always been at the heart of our approach.”

Other speakers at the Observance included one of Great Britain’s most successful Paralympians Baroness (Tanni) Grey-Thompson and Olympic gold medalist, The Lord (Sebastian) Coe.

Looking ahead to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Lord Coe said: “…these Games have their own unique spirit. It is a spirit formed not only by the diversity of the Commonwealth but also the sense of belonging to something, a sense of family… The Games in Glasgow will be another chance to show what the Commonwealth represents: peace, order and equal rights for all…It will bring before us the very best of the Commonwealth. And that is a cause for celebration.”

The critically acclaimed MOBO award winner and Brit nominee, Laura Mvula performed her song, ‘Unbelievable Dream’.  And a poem, specially commissioned for Commonwealth Day, entitled ‘Courage – it takes more’, was read by South African writer and performance artist, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers.

The Observance, Britain’s largest annual inter-faith gathering, was attended by nearly 1,000 children. Each young person present in the Abbey – including those presenting posies to The Queen, Duchess and Countess – had been involved in this year’s Commonwealth Essay Competition which calls for creative entries on the theme ‘Team Commonwealth’.