Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim (fourth from left) and Pusat Kreatif Kanak-kanak Tuanku Bainun chairman Raja Datuk Seri Azureen Sultan Azlan Shah (third from left) with SJK(T) Kajang’s Interact Club members who received the Special Mention Award at the Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Award 2017 prize-giving ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. FILE PIC

MANY people the world over know who Yousafzai Malala is. She spoke against the Taliban and publicly campaigned for girls to go to school.

She was shot at by a masked gunman, but survived after multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation.

On her 16th birthday, she made her first public appearance at the United Nations (UN). The UN declared July 12 “Malala Day” and she promised to dedicate this day to shining a spotlight on the world’s most vulnerable girls.

Later, she set up Malala Fund, an organisation dedicated to giving all girls access to education.

In 2014, she and an Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize and she became the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate.

Last week, I was given an opportunity to attend the Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Award 2017 prize-giving ceremony at Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun in Kuala Lumpur. The awards ceremony was graced by Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim.

The Young Changemakers is a celebration of young people who are making positive and a direct social and environmental impact through initiatives and projects that they started within their communities i.e. creating “superheroes” aged between 6 and 15. The awards recognise Young Changemakers so that their stories can inspire other children.

In the group category, the winner was a team of students from SMK Tamparuli, Sabah. They proposed a project to deliver filtered water to rural communities in Tamparuli. Not only did they come up with the idea, they also raised money to fund the project that solved the water woes of more than 2,000 villagers.

In two individual categories, a 12-year-old from Seri Kembangan and a 13-year-old from Kajang won. The former raised funds to buy a piano for his school in Putrajaya and the latter created Zoogle, an educational interactive application.

All 10 finalists had brilliant ideas and were very resourceful. It warmed my heart and I am quite sure we can produce a Nobel laureate soon. At the ceremony, I had the chance to talk to Kehkashan Basu.

She is only 17, and is the founder of a youth organisation called Green Hope UAE in 2012. It is a networking platform for children and youth in the region to carry forward the Rio legacy.

She is also a climate justice ambassador for Plant-for-the-Planet initiative, a youth ambassador for the World Future Council and an active member of United Nations Major Group for Children & Youth.

She has won quiz, art, poetry and photography competitions. She is a proficient musician and sings as well.

Green Hope started as one young girl’s initiative, and today it is a sizeable organisation with a management team comprised entirely of children who use their own pocket money to fund environment-related activities. It has more than 1,000 volunteers in 10 countries around the world.

I remember Malaysia took the first big step by launching a pilot workshop under the Nobelist Mindset programme at the Permata Pintar Centre at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2013.

It was aimed at developing the nation’s first Nobel laureate by 2020.

Incidentally, a retired Malay-sian armed forces personnel Mohd Nasarudin Mohd Yusof — being part of a group — got the chance to fly the Jalur Gemilang high with a Nobel Peace Prize 2013 award for his work at the intergovernmental organisation that ensures member countries adhere to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi challenged local authors to win the Nobel Prize by 2057 (when the nation celebrates 100 years of independence).

The government, he promised, would help in any way it could and all parties involved had to put in the effort and not leave it up to the government alone. He urged Malaysian authors to break away from the “cocoon” mentality.

I believe we do not need to wait that long to produce a Nobel laureate.

With Permata and Young Changemakers, I’m sure we will be able to have a winner by 2020, God willing.

Saleh Mohammed

Kuala Lumpur

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