Being involved with the United Nations is a pretty amazing deed, which not many people can say that they’ve accomplished. No one, except one person can say that they’ve ever held a position in the United Nations when they were only 12 years old and that person is Kehkashan Basu. This is her story.
Coincidentally enough, she was born on the 5th June, on World Environment Day. Why is this such a big coincidence? Well, at just 8 years old she began her work to spread the message of peace, happiness and sustainability.
Kehkashan Basu is 19 years old and lives in Dubai. When she was only 12 years old, in 2012, when she attended the Rio +20, also known as the Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She was one of the youngest international delegates to attend, as the majority of the people there were adults. Kehkashan witnessed the discussion and making of guidelines that would affect her future, however, was shocked that the people it would affect the most (children like herself) had no involvement in the process. So she went back home and with the help of a couple of friends, established the Green Hope Foundation.
Green Hope aims to educate children and empower them on issues such as environmental and sustainability issues with a special focus on mitigating climate change , stopping land degradation, promoting the use of renewable energy, poverty eradication, gender equality and peace building. Green Hope now has over 1062 members, working in 14 countries from Canada to the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
In 2013, Kehkashan was elected as the youngest ever Global Coordinator for United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Major Groups for Children and Youth, making her the only minor, ever, to hold this position.
Kehkashan spoke to us specifically about her environmental work, telling us…
“No part of our planet is untouched or unaffected by the impacts of its 7 billion+ residents and by the myopia of our policy makers. My generation is the last one that has the opportunity to take actions to redress these issues before it is too late -- yet the children and youth fraternity continue to be ignored , under-represented and left behind on the sidelines while policy makers debate and procrastinate about the future of our planet. I do not accept this situation and through my social innovation enterprise, Green Hope Foundation, have been working to engage and educate youth, many of them marginalised - refugees, orphans, the homeless - using ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) and STEM linkages as a transformative tool to empower them to demand their rights for a sustainable and equitable world.”
However, Kehkashan’s work doesn’t just stop there and encompasses much more than only environmental activism and she has won countless awards for her work, majority of them listed in the photo below.
She’s a Youth Ambassador of World Future Council, a Climate Reality Leader and has spoken at over 75 United Nations and other International summits, the European Parliament during their Week of Action for Girls in 2015, recently spoke at the Parliament of World’s Religions panels, was the youngest speaker at the High-Level Plenary Meeting (which promotes the elimination of nuclear weapons), the Y20 Youth Summit and so on.
She is a strong advocate to stop violence against girls and women and a member of World Future Council's Commission on Ending Violence Against Women and Girls. She signed their petition demanding an end to Female Genital Mutilation and has created her own video to demand protection for girls which she has promoted widely using the social media.
In 2015 she also launched her first book, “The Tree of Hope” , which tells the story of young people taking actions to mitigate climate change and Kehkashan received a Gold Award from “Voices of Generations” for this book.
She spent last Christmas conducting workshops for hundreds of Rohingya refugee children living in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp. She also visited refugee camps in Lebanon which houses Syrian refugees and she conducted 6 workshops to educate them about the Sustainable Development Goals and involve them so that they could also start taking actions to improve their immediate environment
Her list of achievements are immense and they show how she has been working tirelessly in many areas of activism to for years to positively impact the global fraternity. Kehkashan has achieved what more than millions of adults will ever achieve in their lifetime, all by the age of 19 and will continue her remarkable work for many years to come.
Kehkashan shows how the youth of today have the power to not only make the world a better place, but also impact the global community on local, national and international scales. She demonstrates how we, as young people, have the power to collaborate and influence world leaders, and have just as much power to make a difference as any politician, delegate and other powerful world leaders. She shows how, at the end of the day, the youth ARE the powerful world leaders.