Sixteen-year-old Indian teen Kehkashan Basu from UAE has been chosen as the winner of this year’s International Children’s Peace Prize for her work to protect the environment.
On Friday, she was presented with the prestigious award for her fight for climate justice and against environmental degradation. Kehkashan received the prize from Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus in the presence of the world press and many prominent guests.
The International Children’s Peace Prize is an initiative of KidsRights, the foundation committed to defending children’s rights worldwide.
Kehkashan Basu, a pupil at Deira International School in Dubai, was selected from 120 entries by KidsRights, which launched the annual competition in 2005.
The prize is awarded annually “to a child who fights courageously for children’s rights,” KidsRights said. It also includes a 100,000 euro ($106,000) investment for projects in the winner’s home country.
Past winners include Pakistani education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and the prize’s first recipient, Nkosi Johnson, a South African boy who shone a light on the plight of children with HIV/AIDS.
When Kehkashan was eight, she started educating neighbours on the importance of saving the environment. She planted her first tree and brought together children to collect and recycle waste. She founded her organization Green Hope at the age of twelve, through which she has initiated countless cleanup operations and awareness campaigns.
Kehkashan then became the youngest ever Global Coordinator for the Major Group for Children and Youth of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Green Hope has become an international organization with activities in more than ten countries and over a thousand young volunteers.
Upon receiving the prize today, Kehkashan confirmed that her work will continue: “I will keep encouraging children and adults to create a more sustainable future. I call upon everyone to think of ways to contribute to the preservation of the environment. Take that extra step; walk that extra mile to get the future we want. Time is not on our side – we have to act now, or we will have polar bears under palm trees.”
Professor Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts for economic and social development, today underlined the urgency and importance of Kehkashan’s work, as more than three million children under the age of five die every year from environment-related diseases and many more suffer deeply from environmental issues.
Mr Yunus said: “It is a great achievement for such a young person to already have such reach and impact with her important message. A healthy environment is essential for the survival, wellbeing and development of children, and therefore it is a precondition for the realization of the rights of the child. Kehkashan teaches us that we all have a responsibility to work towards a sustainable future.”