Rotorua's Loren Skudder-Hill is this year's recipient of the Young Women in Public Affairs Award from Zonta.

It comes as she prepares to take up an Amnesty International role while studying in China, having turned down offers to study at both Harvard and Cambridge Universities.

The awards programme recognises young women for their demonstrated leadership skills and commitment to public service and civic causes and encourages them to continue their participation in public and political life.

John Paul College student Loren, 18, has been active in public affairs as an ambassador for the Global Volunteer Network, United Nations Youth, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Amnesty International.


Loren is to date the only person in New Zealand to have received the International Diana Award, a programme which aims to develop young people and engage them in social action projects.

She has also found the time to work with KidsCan, the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce and St John's, among a number of other organisations.

Zonta New Zealand is part of a global organisation which was founded in the United States in 1919 for professional women, empowering through service and advocacy.

Loren's application was chosen on this basis and on her personal interest in gender equality and her efforts to raise the status of women through raising awareness of issues and actively supporting women in business as well as other organisations.

Rotorua Zonta club spokeswoman Jenny Dowthwaite said Loren was an extraordinary young woman.

"She is not only very bright, but also very determined and already making a difference on the global stage.

"The ... club will follow her career which, if intelligence and determination count, will be as extraordinary as our nominee."

Loren had initially intended to study for a joint degree in medicine and Human Rights law, having been accepted at both Harvard and Cambridge universities. However, the opportunity to serve as a lead Global Human Rights Ambassador for Amnesty International based in Shanghai, China, has proved to be the greater draw.

"Not so long after I had made a decision to go to Cambridge, I received another letter," Loren said.

After considering the offer, she says she realised it was a greater opportunity for her.

"Fulfilling this role would be a six-year commitment, one that would see me tackle some of the greatest human rights abuses within China and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

"I would take a frontline approach to working with victimised individuals, marginalised communities and directly advocating for change in the face of some of the most terrifying social and political circumstances.

"This role would be ridiculously hard work, but so fulfilling."

Loren said by taking on the role she would become the type of leader she would want to follow.

She has now enrolled in a dual medicine and human rights law degree at one of the top universities in China and has been granted a partial scholarship.

As for her new role, she is already hard at work co-ordinating on some new projects.

Loren's award was presented in a special ceremony in Rotorua by Zonta District 16 Governor Janet Hope.