Singapore's Czaana Saxena Bags Gold in Queen's Commonwealth Essay Contest Finals

The satisfaction that is brought by achieving life goals is unparalleled. An 11-year-old Indian-origin Czaana Saxena living in Singapore is familiar with that feeling after receiving many accolades and most recently the prestigious gold finalist award in the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition 2020. Out of 13,000 students from 58 countries, Czaana managed to secure the gold finalist award, giving her the much-needed boost at such a young age.

Commonwealth Essay Competition is the world's oldest and largest schools' international writing competition, which is run by the Royal Commonwealth Society since 1883. Past winners include the Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Lee Hsien Loong and author and journalist Elspeth Huxley. The young student from Temasek Primary School is now among the few who can say with pride that they won the prestigious award in the globally-renowned writing contest.

"With automation, AI, and machines taking over, human progress will be dependent on our ability to think differently, and convincing others of cool and progressive ideas. That is where the power of writing and debating comes in. Being good with words is not just fun, but a real skill for the future. You can't lead if you can't persuade." Czaana says.

Singapore’s Czaana Saxena
Singapore’s Czaana Saxena, bags gold in Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Contest

Czaana Saxena and her Passion for Writing

Czaana Saxena developed interest in writing at an early age and is taking the path to fulfilling her passion. At the age of just 8, her story on Suppandi, her favourite character, was published in India's best-selling kids magazine Tinkle.

"I am hugely inspired by Dorothy Vaughan and India's Jansi-ki-Rani who were both very progressive and challenged many norms." She said.

"I'm blessed to have great teachers and mentors. My mother has always kept us excited about stories from India and the world, and my father is involved and encouraging me to write and debate more often. My brother is quite a funny and annoying character, the stereotype you find in books, but I know he is elated when I do well."

But it was her essay, titled "Intimations of Immortality" that won her the Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition award that moved its readers. Taking inspiration from the real-world, Czaana offered realistic solution to the worsening climate crisis. "I wanted to ensure that we don't just talk about the issue but actually do something about it. Real change comes from discussing solutions, not problems," she said.

Her young age did not stop her from achieving her dreams. In fact, she was even listed among 25 young creators across Singapore, which allowed her to present her innovation to Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S. Iswaran, who was thoroughly impressed.

"The story was very creative and conveys an important message of inclusion – physical book & digital book," the minister said, referring to the QR-coded innovation of 'Eureka: Respecting Diversity' a multi-format book the team created.

On being asked what keeps her going, the young girl joyfully replied, "'You're good!' is really powerful. To both receive it and offer it can be hugely motivating."

Czaana Saxena
Czaana Saxena wins gold in essay competition

Czaana further credited Singapore's education system and the schools, which allowed her to broaden her knowledge. "Singapore has an amazing spectrum of schools. School of the Arts (SOTA) is a dream to explore your inner artist alongside academics. Others like Raffles Girls School have a broad spectrum of activities to choose from. It isn't like what my parents tell me about their time. Just walk into any library in Singapore. They are all equipped with books on pretty much everything under the sun; from dance to science to fiction to poetry," Czaana said.

This article was first published on March 27, 2021