Born and raised in Dubai, Kehkashan founded the Green Hope Foundation at the age of just 12. Green Hope is a social innovation enterprise to reduce educational inequality by engaging all sections of civil society on the rights of the marginalized and on sustainability.
In just eight years, Green Hope has grown into a global UN-accredited changemaking platform which has directly educated over 142,000 people in 25 countries. However, along the way, Kehkashan has had to overcome opposition such as hate mail, social media hate campaigns, and even threats of physical violence from adults for daring to speak up for children’s rights.
Kehkashan is now 20, and in her third year of Environment Studies at the University of Toronto. Her influence on the wider world and on global sustainability has been immense. Green Hope now has chapters in 16 countries and is the Environmental Education partner to the Toronto District School Board (with 250 schools and 600,000 students). Through its special projects, Green Hope has also reached out to particular groups in need around the world. For example, sustainability workshops have been conducted and books, clothes and toys provided for 2600 Rohingya refugee children in Kutupalong, Bangladesh – the world's largest refugee camp – as well as 600 refugee children in Syrian refugee camps on the border of Lebanon and Syria.
In addition to her grassroots work through Green Hope, Kehkashan is a United Nations Human Rights Champion, the youngest Trustee at the Parliament of the World Religions, and youngest Councillor at the World Future Council. She is also the recipient of a long list of awards including the 2015 Non-Resident Indian of the Year, the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize, and the 2017 Turner Social Change Prize. At the University of Toronto, she is currently a Dean’s List Scholar, and in 2021, she was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30. For her “Environment Academy” advocacy tool – a platform that uses art, dance, music, sport, drama and STEM to teach sustainability – she was named the 2019 Innovator of the Year at the HundrED Innovation Summit in Helsinki. Kehkashan has also written a book, Tree of Hope, the story of a young girl who plants trees to turn her desert village into an oasis.
If she wins the Global Student Prize, Kehkashan will donate the funds to Green Hope. Half the money will be used to set up a school in the Bangladeshi village that Green Hope is currently working in, while 30% will go to purchase computers for girls’ education as part of the Liberian Powering Education project. Finally, 20% will be used to set up a digital resource centre to provide online learning to remote communities in an age of COVID.