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#IYD2021: 5 youth activists advocating urgent climate action in Africa


#IYD2021: 5 youth activists advocating urgent climate action in Africa

A world-renowned expert on climate change once wrote that “one of the biggest obstacles to making a start on climate change is that it has become a cliche before it has even been understood.” Cliche or not, the world is teetering on the brink of catastrophe.

As things stand, the responsibility of mitigating the impact of climate change does not rest on the shoulders of world leaders, international and local climate-focused organizations alone.

Everyone, by right, should unite in the fight against this global issue. Who should be at the forefront of the battle to save the planet? I leave you to answer that.

“Young people are on the frontlines of the struggle to build a better future for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dire need for the kind of transformational change they seek – and young people must be full partners in that effort”, says António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General.

With the recent climate-related disasters occurring in different parts of the world, we are left with questions like: What kind of future can today’s youths look forward to? How can they shape the future they want?

Today, as you may know, is the 2021 International Youth Day (IYD)- a yearly celebration observed every year on 12 August across the world.

The day is marked by new initiatives and actions taken by the youth. Also, it brings together governments and citizens giving both parties an opportunity to the problems faced by the younger generation.

A brief history of the International Youth Day

It all started in 1998 when the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth proposed the establishment of a special day for youths during an event in Lisbon.

A year later, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation, making 1999 the year that the first International Youth Day was celebrated.

Since its inception, IYD has been celebrated globally via various campaigns, events, and community concerts to highlight some of the socio-economic and socio-political issues that youths face.

The Focal Point on Youth, a U.N program on youths, picks a theme for the day often with input from youth organizations and members of the UN Inter-Agency Network in Youth development. The Program encourages youth around the world to organize activities to raise awareness about the situation of youth in their country.

The International Youth Day is held to acknowledge, celebrate and showcase young people’s voices, actions, and initiatives, as well as their impactful, equitable contributions to humanity.

Themed, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, the 2021 IYD aims to highlight the success of global efforts through the meaningful engagement of young people.

With the negative impacts of climate change, planetary health has more than ever before become an urgent issue. In many parts of the world, especially Africa, problems such as food insecurity, drought, flooding are everyday realities.

IYD: Bringing Africa’s young climate activists to center stage

Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change despite being the least contributor to carbon emission.

In light of this, many youths have risen to the occasion, tackling planetary health and environmental challenges in Africa through advocacy programs, research, and training among other approaches.

Our special feature for this year’s IYD is to showcase a few of the amazing youth activists who are positively impacting Africa.

Vanessa Nakate

Vanessa is a Ugandan climate justice activist who started her activism in 2018 after becoming concerned about the unusually high temperatures in her country.

The founder of the Rise up Climate Movement, an organization that aims to amplify the voices of African activists, Vanessa is the First Fridays For Future climate activist in Uganda.

She was chosen as one of the young climate activists who spoke at the COP25 gathering in Spain. Among what she does is raising awareness of the danger of climate change, the causes, and the impacts. To this end, she spearheaded the campaign to save Congo’s rainforest, which is facing massive deforestation.

Vanessa was also one of 20 climate activists who penned a letter to the participants of the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling for an end to the subsidization of fossil fuels.

Wanjiru Wathuti

Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti is a Kenyan environment and climate activist. She also runs the Green Generation Initiative, which inculcates the love of nature in young people, grooming them to be environmentally conscious at a young age.

The young graduate of Environmental Studies and Community Development at Kenyatta University has long had a passion for environmental conservation.

Having planted her first tree at the age of seven, she went on to establish an environmental club in high school, moving on to serve in the leadership of Kenyatta University Environmental Club (KUNEC) for three years.

Oladosu Adenike 

A Nigerian eco-feminist, a climate justice activist, Adenike is passionate about encouraging youth involvement in climate action. This she does through climate education and raising awareness on the importance of women’s environmental rights.

She is also the founder of I Lead Climate, a youth-led movement, raising awareness about climate change-induced problems in conflict zones and African societies for disarmament.

Hana Kidane

Hana Kidane is an Ethiopian feminist climate justice champion who wants a world where girls and women are cushioned against the impacts of climate change. Hana,

She is an advocate of awareness-raising and training on climate justice for women and girls to help them to fight through natural disasters and other atrocities of global warming.

Hana believes that the rights to education, heritage, and employment are key to making this a reality and that that it’s not too late to care about the environment.

Chido Nyaruwata

Chido is a Zimbabwean afro-feminist researcher that specializes in water and health rights. Being a staunch advocate of gender equality, she believes that all women and girls should have equal access to affordable and safe water.

As such, she wants to see the needs of women included in national and regional dialogues regarding water and sanitation, and safe environments. Chido is also a member of the African Women’s Leaders Network Zimbabwe Chapter.

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