Climate Change affects me!

COP 17 Youth DelegatesMy name is Beatrice Omweri from Kenya.

I’m a youth delegate at COP seventeen for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, or WAGGGS .

I am a Girl Guide and I am here today to speak out on behalf of 10 million girls and young women who are negatively affected by climate change.

 I applied to be a WAGGGS delegate at COP 17 after witnessing the terrible drought in the North Eastern province of Kenya. As a result, Hundreds of women and children died due to this.

In search of food, men would leave, forcing women to care for their families AND be the bread winners. Girls dropped out of school to help in the search of food, water and fire wood, affecting their education greatly. I had to come to COP 17 to be part of the solution to these problems. Girls’ voices need to be heard. Gender needs to be considered in climate change negotiations. I wanted to be here and speak out for the girls and young women who have been so greatly affected by this drought, and make sure their voice was heard here in Durban.

To begin I would like to share my own personal experience of how climate change has negatively affected me as a young woman in Africa

I live in the capital city, Nairobi and I consider my family to be middle class . Due to climate change, there has been a water shortage in Nairobi and the Nairobi city council is rationing water. We get water once a week and at times not at all depending on how much it has rained and how much water is in the city dam. As a young woman, it is my duty to do house work and fetch water. Being tired from work, I spend my whole night filling up all the containers with water in the cold. And after this I still have to get ready for work. When there is no water, I have to look for water from neighboring places and carry the containers. Most of the time the water is not clean and this is a risk to our health and ALL of this has increased my work burden at home deeply.

Agriculture has been affected in most part of Africa and the price of available food has risen to a high level. At home we eat twice a day but when times are hard its just once a day. As two young women at home, my sister and I, have to eat smaller portions so that our brothers can have larger meals.

It is even worse for lower income earning women. Climate change places more demands on us as women, and that is why we and our role should be considered here at COP17.

Climate change plays a big role in my life

It affects how much I eat, how much I drink and my role as a young woman. I HAD to play a big role in tackling the effects of climate change for myself and my community. Through the Kenya Girl Guides Association, I started a project called ‘Trees with a Purpose’. I worked with Brownies, Girl Guides, Rangers and Young Leaders to roll out a tree planting project in Ngong forest in Nairobi in memory of the late Prof Wangari Maathai,. We will expand this programme further by rolling out a climate change education programme, whereby all the members of my Association, will take part in WAGGGS’ ‘non-formal climate change education programme.

Through Guiding, I was able take action on climate change

My fellow Guiding and Scouting sisters throughout Africa, and the world, have also been busy taking action too. Having witnessed rapid rates of deforestation in their country, a Girl Guide unit in Madagascar initiated a training project to educate leaders on reforestation. The leaders then went out into their communities to plant trees and improve soil quality. Through this non-formal educational programme, they learnt how take action at a local level.

Likewise the Girl Guide Association of South Africa hosted ‘Camp Activate’ in December 2010. 100 young women from both urban and rural backgrounds attended this week-long environmental camp. They learnt about biodiversity, solar cooking, caring for the environment and how to recycle materials for other uses.

As well ,my fellow Girl Guides in Kenya started a project where they taught girls and young women living in slum conditions on how to improve their food security. They taught them how to construct solar cookers and how to harvest rainwater. As a result 1,000 girls and young women have been encouraged to plant and grow their own food in an efficient environmental manner.

These local projects demonstrate the importance of educating our youth on these issues. All too often, in the formal education system, you only learn about the problem. Never the solution. But these programmes and projects, that myself and my fellow Girl Guides have started, show the importance of non-formal education, as it give us a chance be the solution and take action. We at COP need to recognize how powerful non-formal education can be And invest in it.

Guiding has given me the confidence to go out, speak out and make a change. The Movement has opened doors and brought opportunities to myself and my fellow Guiding sisters to make a difference. As Girl Guides and Girl Scouts we are not just victims; we are active AGENTS of change.

We are the leaders of today AND tomorrow

Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are out in the world taking actions. Others need to follow our lead. They need to start here in Durban. I hope and pray that COP 17 will give me and other girls and young women a renewed hope that life will be better in Africa.

(Beatrice presented this speech at a WAGGGS side event as part of Young and Future Generation Day on 1 December 2011 during COP 17 in Durban)

Your comments

Kelvin Keya - 8 December 2011 - 2.40PM (GMT)

I accede to your call for youth be educated on finding solutions to these challenges.We must raise up and act and demand climate justice in the World.

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