“Maybe one day I will be able to tell my grandchild: this is what I was fighting for when I was your age!”, this is the hope of Elizabeth Gulugulu talking about climate change. She is a young woman from Zimbabwe, that we met at the COP25.
Elizabeth is here in Madrid, not only to represent young people of her country, but the entire African youth. She fights for rights of her country, one of the most vulnerable and most affected by climate change. Elizabeth is part of “African Youth Initiative on Climate Change Zimbabwe”, an organization created by young people for young people. Its aim is to engage and empower African youth on how best they can try to fight climate change.
She thinks it is important to establish a dialogue between young people and institutions, with the purpose to come up with a strategy to fight climate change together. This cooperation is crucial: “I would capture the attention of a Minister more extensively by going to him/her and tell him/her that I have a project; but, if I go outside his/her office with a picket sign, this strategy will not work, in fact our culture doesn’t allow us to strike. In my country strikes are not the right strategy to wake up people” says Elizabeth. In Europe strikes for climate had a strong impact, for example “It was strategic for Greta Thunberg to seat outside the Parliament and strike. There are a lot of strategies to use (to wake up people), depending on where you are from”.
Later we had the chance to talk to Joel Enrique Peña Panichine, a young Chilean from the Mapuche Indigenous Peoples. Joel is a university student, that is part a part of the movement “Fridays For Future” and works for an NGO called “Chiloé Protegido”. Chiloé is the island in which he was born and from where he had to flee due to a volcanic explosion: “When I realized that I survived the explosion, I understood I would have to use my time the best that I could. Natural disasters are a problem that we cannot control, I am worried that my sad experience might happen again and this time because of mankind”. For this reason, Joel started his fight against climate change because he wants to make sure that future generations will leave a better future.
Joel and other young people from “Fridays For Future” are here to talk about what is happening in South America and to share the experience of Chile, a country that woke up and started to rise up. He is at the COP25 not only to talk about his experience, but also to listen to other people’s stories: “According to the Mapuche’s vision, in order to live a ’vida buena’, it is necessary to empathize (with what it is around us), to be part of the whole. In order to be part of the whole, we need to know what the whole is and understand what is happening around the world”.
What is it happening around the world? Thousands of young people are active in the climate change fight. They are tired of waiting for the politicians to do something and THEY WANT TO ACT NOW! One of the most famous youth movement is “Fridays For Future”, it widespread around the world thank to a young woman that we all know: Greta Thunberg. According to Joel, her fame allowed the movement to expand and bring global attention to climate change issues, but sometimes people and the media paymore attention to her as a person and not to the message she is sharing. Greta herself does not want to be at the centre of attention, but she wants to give space also to other voices of the movement.
Everybody deserves to be heard. Young people around the world are fighting to be heard. They want to share their message, so that people can finally act. “Politicians failed to make it in the past and they are failing to make it right now and they will probably fail to make it in the future. People are the right solution! ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!”.