Kehkashan Basu, President of the Children's Board of Plant-for-the-Planet, visits GBM
On September 9th 2013, Kehkashan Basu, a 13 year old environmental and social activist living in Dubai, visited Green Belt Movement's (GBM) headquarters in Nairobi to talk about her work and admiration for the Late Professor Wangari Maathai. Born on 5th June which is also World Environment Day, Kehkashan feels that it was pre-ordained that she should grow up to be an eco-warrior.
Kehkashan is UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) Global Coordinator for Children & Youth and a member of its Major Groups Facilitating Committee. She is the first minor, ever, to be elected into this position. Her objective is to involve and mobilize children and youth in the movement for a Sustainable and green future.
“Kehkashan’s long list of accomplishments is quite something. Kehkashan is an inspiration not just to youth around the world, but to all those she impacts, through her energetic and tireless efforts in spreading the message about sustainability.
“With motivated youth like her, the future for our children is in safe hands.” – Wanjira Mathai
She is the recipient of several international awards, notable amongst which are those from UNCCD and Korea Green Foundation in 2012, The Living Rainforest U.K. and most recently the 2013 International Young Eco-Hero award from Action for Nature, USA.
Kehkashan is involved with several charitable and social upliftment causes and works including Dubai Cares, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and the King Hussein Foundation. She is a Peace Ambassador of “Emerging Future Youth Network – USA” and a Hub Leader for of the “Children of the Earth”.
What is more Kehkashan is the founder of a youth organization, Green Hope UAE, which seeks to provide a networking platform to children and youth in the region to carry forward the Rio +20 legacy through several environmental workshops and ground level projects on biodiversity conservation, waste segregation and reversing land degradation.
Kehkashan works towards being the change for a better future and believes in the words of Mark Twain “Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first”.
Q: When and what got you interested in sustainable environment development?
A: I was born on June 5 which, coincidentally, is World Environment Day. I feel that it was
pre-ordained that I should grow up to be an eco-warrior. It all started when I turned eight and decided to spend the birthday gift money on planting a tree. Thereafter I have planted a tree on every major occasion in my life because this is a simple and effective way of reducing carbon footprint to date we have planted over 600 trees. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that my friends too joined in my endeavours, we have 400 representations international, 30 core committee in Dubai.
Q: In what ways do you see effective environment awareness happen?
A: Education holds the key to spreading awareness. Civil society participation in agenda setting, policy-making and implementation of the sustainable development goals is a must.
We, children, comprise of one-thirds of the global population. It's obvious that children need more representation and who better to do it than children themselves. We don't want adults to talk on our behalf any more. We are the future and we must have a determining role to play in charting the course.
Q: Tell us about your speech at the 12th UN youth assembly. What was the experience like?
A: It was a great honor for me to address them, the feeling is indescribable. My speech emphasized the need to include children in the sustainable development dialogue. I called for inclusion of 'education as the fundamental right of every child' in the post 2015 agenda.
The applause and positive feedback I received after my speech was hugely motivating and I shall cherish the memory forever.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I dream of being a nuclear physicist one day. While I was in the USA, I visited the MIT and Harvard campuses in Boston where I hope to study someday. It will mean a lot of hard work but I have set my sights on it.
Q: What are your interests and hobbies?
A: I love music and play the piano, guitar and sing having given performances locally and abroad. I am a book worm and love reading and composing poetry. Travelling is a hobby and I have visited more than 30 countries till date.
Q: Tell us more about the Plastic Bag Campaign?
A: We are a youth organization working for sustainable development. Our objective is to spread awareness amongst children and youth about the environment and provide a networking platform to share their projects for a sustainable, green future. Issues that are important to us are Climate Change, Biodiversity Conservation, Reduction of Carbon Footprint & Fossil Fuel Usage, Integration of all sections of civil society and social upliftment.
Kehkashan had a final parting message for young people:
“Do not wait for others to do it for you, to plant your first tree today, talk about it to your peers, spread the message and stop the psycho side. My main focus is in children and youth because we are the future and it’s the future we want, so we must work for the future now otherwise the future generation will never forgive us and we may soon see polar bears on the Palm Trees.”