Dubai teenager wins Non-Resident Indian of the Year award

Kehkashan Basu focuses on advocating the right to education, gender equality and combating climate change

Dubai: A 14-year-old school girl from Dubai has been chosen as the Non-Resident Indian of the Year.

Kehkashan Basu won in the academics category, which recognizes Indians living overseas who have “gone beyond their academic proficiencies” and “done exemplary work in their everyday lives which has created an impact on society or their neighborhoods.”

“It was really exciting for me because it’s such a huge honor to receive such an award,” said Kehkashan, a student of Deira International School who is also an environmental activist. She flew to Mumbai on Friday for the ceremony.

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was also among those recognized and, for Kehkashan, getting the chance to meet him was just as “amazing.”

“I was extremely excited because it was kind of a dream come true seeing him, and being on the same platform as him was even more exciting,” said Kehkashan. “I was just really excited. He congratulated me. That was another thing.”

Kehkashan said her dream was to become the secretary general of the UN, reported

The international honor is fitting, said Mark Williams, deputy head of Kehkashan’s school. “She’s quite a special girl,” Williams said.

The Year 9 student is a global coordinator for United Nations Environment Programme’s Major Group of Children and Youth and is the youngest member of its Major Groups Facilitating Committee.

She is the youth ambassador of World Future Council and the Founder President of Green Hope UAE. She is the past global president of the children’s board at Plant-for-the-Planet and a volunteer with the World Youth Foundation. Kehkashan also runs Green Hope UAE, a non-profit organization that engages youths in promoting a sustainable environment through education and hands-on activism in conservation, green energy and recycling.

Kehkashan’s extra-curricular work has also focused on advocating the right to education, gender equality and combating climate change.

As a two-time Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance winner, she has also been nationally recognized for her academic achievements and won several honors for music, dance and public speaking.

“She is very much an overachiever. I mean academically, she’s at the top of her year group, despite the fact that she’s away 40 per cent of the time because of all the commitments she’s got with the outside roles that she’s got,” said Williams.

Kehkashan’s mother, Swati, said: “We were absolutely ecstatic. Kehkashan, by the grace of God, has been winning many awards. She was very happy. We are happy because her hard work paid off. She works tirelessly to spread awareness and that I thought was really satisfying.”

The NRI award, launched by India’s largest media conglomerate, the Times Group, and ICICI Bank, seeks to honor exemplary non-resident Indians for their contributions to the society.

Now in its second year, the award has five categories — entrepreneur, philanthropy, academics, art and culture and professional.

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