EVIDENCE of climate change is extremely overwhelming; climate change affects my life each and every day. It may be through the increasing unpredictability and uncertainty of weather patterns or more severe extreme environmental events.
Where I live, in Victoria Falls, it’s not that rains no longer come, but when they do, it’s not enough to sustain agriculture and livelihoods — or we see floods and they wash away plants, infrastructure and leave our area with extreme erosion.
I live it, my family and friends live it too. Currently we are facing extremely hot temperatures, and more frequent heat waves which have brought negative impacts on humans and wildlife.
The climate crisis is a child rights challenge. Children are the most adversely affected by the impacts of climate change and it undermines the development objectives globally which are supposed to ensure a healthy and safe future for every child. I stand in solidarity with countless young people who want their voices to be heard and acted upon. We are becoming more certain that we will be heard and those in power will listen.
With this in mind I feel very honoured to have recently become a Unicef Youth Climate Advocate. This year as we celebrate World Children’s Day on November 20, we focus on Unicef’s mandate to protect the rights of children across the world. Unicef is working tirelessly, hand in glove with governments and partners — particularly the Government of Sweden on climate change issues, to ensure that all children’s rights are upheld including the right to a clean and safe environment for all.
Since I was 10 years old, I have participated in countless events organised by Unicef to try and tackle the climate crisis. This includes a renewable and clean energy project which inspired me to pioneer the establishment of the first biogas plant in my hometown. I had the privilege to participate in the climate mapping survey which opened my eyes to the impacts of climate change that exists in my community including severe land degradation.
With continued support from Unicef I have managed to take a strong stand against climate injustice and to call for global action. I have managed to participate in and to air my voice in big climate change and development meetings such as the UNFCCC COP 25 (Conference of Parties) in 2019 and the 6th Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development earlier this year in Victoria Falls.
If I flash back the main events I participated in during the COP 25 in Madrid, I had the privilege to participate in a high level political forum featuring some well-known public figures like John Kerry, the Former US Secretary of State as well as various ministers from Fiji, Nigeria, Italy, Germany and the host country, Spain.
I also had the honour of speaking on behalf of other young people to call for urgent climate action and also witnessed the signing of the Inter-governmental Declaration of Children, Youth and Climate Action. I had the privilege of taking part in a meeting at the French Embassy where we shared our views as young people on how young people can be included in decision making and how we can best accelerate our activism, given the different backgrounds we came from.
I was thrilled to witness many young people from different backgrounds and cultures sharing experiences on their advocacy work they are conducting in their respective areas and I even had a time to chat with other young people and got to know more about how they are fighting climate change in their countries.
As a climate advocate, I have also participated in activities funded by other organisations like the Invasive Alien Species Eradication Exercise in the Rainforest as a way of promoting protection of Victoria Falls’ rainforest, which is a World Heritage Site. I have also participated in human-wildlife management excursions where young people were taught about how to manage human-wildlife conflicts and how young people can take part in taking care of their environs since we are based in a National Park.
Covid-19 has been a massive blow to our collective efforts to drive awareness and advocate to fight climate change. The world has completely focused on the pandemic; however, we have taken the climate change fight online and digitally because our voices matter. Virtual meetings are being conducted and I recently participated in a series of virtual meetings organised at national as well as International levels. During the lockdown period, I had an honour to participate and represent other young people from Africa in the Unicef group of friends for the SDGs meeting featuring the Unicef Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
As a result of all these incredibly motivating experiences, I have gained a ‘heavy-weight’ confidence to rally behind my environment and represent countless young people’s voices because, I believe: “Nothing for us, without us, is meant for us”.
I believe in young people as agents of the change we want, the fight is not on the horizon, the fight is right here in front of us, let’s make our voices louder and louder each day.
l Nkosilathi Nyathi, Youth Climate Advocate, Unicef Zimbabwe