07.03.2017 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

For Children’s Peace Prize winner, young women are changing the world one environmental challenge at a time!

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“I was born on the 5th of June, which is World Environment Day, so I’ve always felt that it was pre-ordained that I would grow up to become an eco-warrior,” said 16 year old Kehkashan Basu, from India, winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize for her extraordinary work mobilizing youth in the fight against environmental degradation.

Kehkashan’s work began at just eight years of age when she planted her first tree, and her interest in protecting the environment was further peaked after attending a lecture by the explorer and environmentalist, Robert Swan, who said that the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. 

“Those words have always been tremendously motivating to me. Environmental apathy is one of the greatest challenges of my generation. It is vital that we overcome this hurdle if we are to achieve a sustainable future.”

Kehkashan went on to become the youngest international delegate to attend the Earth Summit in 2012 and realized that if young people were to become truly engaged in protecting the environment, it would take a fellow youth to motivate them!

“It is so important that young people are engaged and informed about all aspects of sustainable development because ultimately it is our future on the line. We are the ones who will inherit a dry, barren planet so we are the ones that must take action.”

This sentiment is echoed by UNESCO, which is recognized globally as the lead agency for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), coordinating the implementation of the Global Action Programme (GAP) on ESD.

Upon returning from the Earth Summit, Kehkashan founded Green Hope, a networking platform where children and youth can share information about local environmental projects and encourage others to get involved too. The organization has already amassed over 1,000 volunteers and partner organizations have been established by youth in Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Nepal, Oman and Sri Lanka.

During the awards ceremony for the Children’s Peace Prize, Kehkashan was praised by Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, for her efforts in working towards a sustainable future. “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,” he said.

And for Kehkashan the award also enforces her belief that young women, and youth in general, have the power and ability to achieve whatever they set their sights on. All that is needed is a fair opportunity! 

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UNESCO works with young women and men, like Kehkashan, across all Programme sectors to ensure that they are provided with the tools they need to be actors and leaders in their communities.

For more information on UNESCO’s work with youth visit our website.

And if you’re a young person who would like to find out more about how to get involved with UNESCO, join our UNESCO Youth Facebook community!




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