“Young people are not only victims of climate change, but also valuable change agents. They can play an active role in finding and implementing solutions,” says Fridah Okomo. She's one of VSO's youth champions fighting climate change.
At VSO we believe that it is crucial to place meaningful youth engagement at the heart of climate action. Young people have the passion and creativity to bring about innovative solutions to global emergencies, such as climate change, as this could determine their future. We work with over 5,000 young people globally and have established and strengthened youth networks led by youth in 17 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.
In this blog we share five ways that our youth champions have realised tremendous achievements in creating climate awareness, climate resilience and triggering climate justice in their communities. In September 2022 our youth champions will be taking over the @VSOPeople Twitter account to share the incredible climate work that they are doing.
1. Digital based awareness raising
From radio shows and webinars to social media campaigns, digital tools have played a big role in creating awareness on climate change, training people in climate action and campaigning for issues related to climate change.
In Cambodia, climate youth champion Pheakdey and her team conducted online training on climate change and developed videos on waste management and recycling, featuring two entrepreneurs. They also started the Facebook challenge: Stop Climate Change, Start with You.
“My motto is ‘Be the change we want to see’. We try to be a role model to youth and other people. I made pledges to myself, like I will walk to work or I will bring my own reusable bags to the market so I don’t have to use plastic bags. With the Facebook challenge: Stop Climate Change, Start with you, we encouraged people to post pictures of their daily climate-sensitive actions, such as cycling to work, using refillable drinking bottles and reusing plastic waste. They tagged their Facebook friends encouraging them to take action as well.”
2. Waste management and clean energy
In Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Myanmar our youth champions worked on waste management.
Climate youth champion Hosea, from Uganda, and his team focused on charcoal waste and how it can be recycled to make briquettes as well as create employment opportunities for youth. With this they aim to tackle both climate change and the high youth unemployment in their country. Burning briquettes is a clean source of energy. They reduce the need for tree cutting which contributes hugely to climate change.
“Through awareness raising and workshops, we were able to train 200 trainees to teach women and youth in their communities how to make briquettes themselves. The briquettes make a difference for the environment and at the same time provide more safety for women and girls because they no longer have to look for firewood. It also gives them more time for other activities, such as education and work, which enables them to build a better life." says Hosea.
3. Climate resilience environment and agriculture
“Youth volunteer platforms have played a critical part in strengthening local and national climate resilience programming and advocacy capacities in Kenya,” says climate youth champion Fridah.
In Kenya, the climate youth champions created awareness and trained youth on agroecology via webinars. They also conducted research on the state of food systems and organised a dialogue to discuss their findings. Next, they organised a stakeholders’ forum to generate action plans for the priorities that emerged in the food dialogue.
“We organised a training on organic farming for 130 community members in rural Nandi. We collaborated with the Nandi County government through the Ministry of Agriculture. They provided an expert in the field to train the community on ways of farming that are better for the environment and our health.”
“We organised a training on organic farming as an adaptation strategy in agriculture towards creation of climate resilient pathways. In Nandi, we liaised with the county government: Ministry of Agriculture, who provided us with an expert to train the community. (Fridah)
In Nigeria Climate Youth Champion Abdulahi and his team created a tree planting movement in schools. Abdulai says “Trees can absorb more carbon emissions and help to get more pure oxygen in the community. We planted 500 trees in 12 schools and 13 communities spread across Kano, Katsina and Adamawa States. We didn’t just plant trees, we also engaged with the students and communities, making them aware of how they can help combat climate change.”
4. Disability inclusive climate action
In their work on climate change and climate justice, our youth champions focused on the most marginalised communities and making climate action more inclusive. This included improving access to climate change information for those living with disabilities.
Ethiopian climate youth champion Hikma: “When we grow, we grow together. When we fall, we fall together. Many people with disabilities I spoke to are being excluded from the community and feel like they have no power to change their community. We wanted to show them that their impact, their motivation, and their efforts are highly valued and that they do have the power to change things.
"Next to trainings on climate action and climate justice, we also organised trainings on social accountability, inclusion and resilience and ran a competition using art to create awareness on key issues through designed cartoons and illustrative drawings.”
5. Climate policy making
Our youth champions are involved in promoting inclusive and responsible policies, holding key decision makers to account. Fridah Okomo, VSO youth champion in Kenya represented VSO and youth at large during Africa Climate Week. There she shared youth priorities, solutions and key demands to African government heads, ahead of COP26.
She also represented young people and VSO through a virtual event at COP26 on ‘Mainstreaming youth in climate policy’. She shared the experiences of the youth platforms and their contributions in tackling climate change by showcasing some of the innovations led by young people, advocating for the need to include youths in climate policies.
“There is urgent need to give youths a seat at the table in climate policy making. Youths should be included in the design of the climate policies and also given a change to be equal stakeholders in decision making processes. There should also be a framework to enhance the inclusion of youths in policy making to make the process sustainable" says Fridah.
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