October 11, 2014 •

My Story of Speaking Out

Kehkashan - IDG pic 5Learning to Speak Out, By: Kehkashan, 15 years, United Arab of Emirates

I was born on 5th June which is, coincidentally, World Environment Day and thus I feel that it was pre-ordained that I should grow up to be an eco-warrior.

On my 8th birthday, my mother revealed this extraordinary coincidence to me and it motivated me to plant my first tree to mark this occasion. Since then, there has been no looking back and my journey as an environmental activist has transcended from a local level to the international forum and resulted in me being elected as the Global Coordinator for Children and Youth at UNEP, making me the youngest person and the only minor to hold this position.

Kehkashan - IDG pic 1Being a girl child from a developing nation, I feel that my election will pave the way for other young girls to break down barriers and reach levels which have not been achieved before. However, my journey has not been without challenges. Enroute, I have had to face threats in the form of cyberbullying.

I have encountered nasty messages and malicious emails from unexpected quarters which have maligned me. At first, I was confused and afraid because I always thought the world to be full of good people. I had read about cyberbullying in books and never imagined that I would be a victim.

My parents and friends are my greatest support and they advised me to stand up against it and speak about it openly. Bullies are essentially cowards and they back off when confronted. It was still a difficult choice for me since I am still very young but I decided to face this threat squarely.

I spoke about it in a newspaper interview organised by a support group which tackles such issues. I also spoke about it on television. As a youth leader I felt it was my responsibility to lead the way not only on environmental matters but also on other social issues which affect the progress of the girl child. I received tremendous messages of support for speaking out against this evil and it has made me a stronger and more confident individual.Kehkashan - IDG pic 4

Gender bias and inequality are challenges which have confronted the girl child for centuries. Change will not happen on its own. It would be naïve to be believe that someone else will do it for us. Our destiny lies in our hands and we must unite and forge our own path towards emancipation and equality.