World Board Member - YoFuGe Day
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YoFuGe Day (aka Young and Future Generations Day) here at COP17 has been absolutely tremendous, and a day to be celebrated by each and every one of the 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world.
The 17 youth delegates representing WAGGGS at COP17 chose to carry out what in UN terms is called an “action” to commemorate YoFuGe Day and to spread the word on WAGGGS’ key messages. The young women braved the boiling mid-day Durban heat for 30 minutes to perform their song and dance outside the conference building! The number was so catchy that not only did several spectators (including busy party delegates) stop to watch, but other groups joined in and the delegates were swamped with requests for interviews from the media. The icing on the cake came around four hours later when Robert Owen-Jones, the Chair of the SBI (Subsidiary Body for Implementation – one of the most important committees at the COP) requested they perform it again especially for him! This was like performing for royalty - talk about being majorly honoured!
But the story didn’t end there. Having watched it, he then asked the delegates whether they would perform the routine on Saturday to kick off the conference plenary sessions. That’s 17 WAGGGS delegates in front of 194 national delegations – a totally unorthodox move by the Chair of the SBI (from what I know of COP proceedings, something like this has never been done before), but a fantastic opportunity that demonstrates just how well WAGGGS is respected in the negotiation process at COP.
And it gets better …
The WAGGGS delegation then went on to co-host a side event where stories around climate change in Africa were shared by the panellists. Beatrice from Kenya, one of our delegates, shared her own story about how difficult climate change has made her life in Kenya. She now spends so much time collecting water and her family often struggle to provide enough food, which is not equally shared between her and her brothers
It was an extremely moving story, and Beatrice, although emotional, delivered the powerful message that climate change had affected her life but rather than being a victim she had come to COP to be part of the solution. She touched many hearts in the audience, and had the moderator and the crowd on their feet in a standing ovation. The courage that Beatrice demonstrated was unbelievable, and she and every other Girl Guide and Girl Scout who decides to stand up and speak out on behalf of their future deserves our admiration and applause.
The WAGGGS side event was followed by a UN side event, and once again on the panel was one of our delegates, Megan fromCanada, who told the powerful story of how non-formal education makes a difference to the lives of girls around the world. She answered tough questions, like how to make climate change education fun, without a flick of an eyelid!
These 17 girls have been truly astounding. They have battled flu, heat, and exhaustion to keep the WAGGGS’ flag, not just flying, but towering over all else. Bear Grylls once said that it is just that little bit extra that you put in when you think there is nothing left to give, that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. And that is exactly what has been achieved by the youth delegates out here in Durban on YoFuGe Day. They, and the WAGGGS’ support team, have all my respect, admiration, and gratitude.
Shaleeka Abeygunasekera (World Board Member)