Youth delegates at Zambian climate conference take lessons home to their communities
By Kondwani Banda and Michal Rahfaldt (original story can be seen here)
Zambian Children’s Climate Conference delegates (from left) Stan Lengwe, Wilfred Simbule and Tendai Nyirenda are seen outside the Mulungshi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.Youth delegates at Zambian climate conference take lessons home to their communities. © UNICEF Zambia 2010/Nesbitt
LUSAKA, Zambia, 28 April 2010 – Nearly 200 children from all of Zambia’s nine provinces are heading back to their hometowns after attending the country’s first Children’s Climate Conference in Lusaka this week. The youth delegates learned about climate change at the conference, and now that it has ended, they hope to spread those lessons around. Each attendee has created an action plan to be implemented in his or her home district. The delegates, aged 12 to 18, will reconvene in August to report on the progress they’ve made, continue their climate change education and receive additional training.
A forum for young activists
The Government of the Republic of Zambia partnered with UNICEF to host the conference, which built on the successes of the international Children’s Climate Forum held in November 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The event here sought to create a similar forum for young environmental activists at the national level in Zambia.
Delagates participate in the ‘Mitigation Market Place’ at the Zambian Children’s Climate Conference in Lusaka. © UNICEF Zambia 2010/Nesbitt
Youth delegate Wilfred Simbule, 15, is a student at Chingola High School in Zambia’s Copperbelt region. “The fumes that are released pollute the air, the [drinking] water is polluted, the land is polluted,” he said, describing his hometown in a mining area.Many of the main killers of children – including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition – are highly sensitive to climatic conditions and are expected to worsen as average global temperatures rise. Not surprisingly, young people have a lot to say about that.
Wilfred wants to educate his peers about water safety and related issues. Prior to the conference, he had already formed an environmental group at his school; the group already has more than 50 members. Now, as a ‘Climate Ambassador’, he hopes to continue to recruit and educate more of his peers.
‘Leaders of tomorrow’
Youth delegate Tendai Nyirenda, 16, from Livingstone in southern Zambia, explained that recent floods have caused widespread devastation in the country. Education was disrupted for many children in affected areas, and some children drowned in the floodwaters.
During the opening ceremony of the Zambian Children’s Climate Conference in Lusaka, UNICEF Regional Director Elhadji Amadou Gueye Sy introduces young UNICEF Climate Ambassadors (from left) Kondwani Joe Banda, Luyando Katenda, Kasaka Katengo and Vanessa Njovu. © UNICEF Zambia 2010/Nesbitt
Tendai believes that young Zambians need to work together to fight climate change. “If we know about climate change and we know how to preserve our environment, then as we grow, as we become the leaders of tomorrow, it will be much easier to find lasting solutions,” she said.
Another youth delegate, Stan Lengwe, 16, from Lusaka, noted that the city’s garbage collection needs to be improved and that poor sanitation contributes to the health problems of young people. Stan has been involved in environmental education as the secretary of the environmental club at Kabulonga High School.
“We give the school ideas to help keep the school clean, and we’re planning to go to rural areas to help sensitize people on climate change and on the importance of keeping the environment clean” he said.
Climate change as a household topic
Children are important to getting the climate-change message across. But the knowledge and skills they’ll need to address the rapidly changing environment are often different from what they learn in school.
The Zambian Children’s Climate Conference aimed to teach young people that they can do their part to address climate change in their own communities. Workshops addressed surviving climate impacts, disaster risk reduction and how to flood-proof homes, schools, and hospitals, among other topics.
The goal is for the Climate Ambassadors to help make climate change a household topic in Zambia, distributing information packs about it in both rural and urban settings. The young people will try to increase their fellow Zambians’ awareness of this issue and ensure that the voices of young children are taken into consideration by environmental decision-makers at all levels.
Several of the Climate Ambassadors are also being trained to produce radio talk shows about climate change. UNICEF will support regular youth-led shows about the issue on community radio stations across Zambia to help them reach out to their peers, and beyond.