• Friday, Dec 09, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Why every voice matters

  • Published at 02:36 pm September 27th, 2021

Small steps in achieving climate justice

Climate change is the reality of today. In this article I am going to explain my journey in the climate change sector, why I chose climate justice, the power of a voice and what climate action means to me. I share my current engagement and challenges from my activities across the globe.

Although we did less to contribute to it and have limited policy power in the decision-making process, it is the ultimate crisis that our future will depend on. In some parts of the globe, the climate change injustice is exacerbated by other community challenges such as gender, economics, peace, education, and culture that impact a complex topic. 

In the video, I explain my journey as an Eco-Feminist, Impact-driven actor in the environment and climate change sector aiming to serve the global community, especially marginalized communities. I talk about why I choose climate justice and what climate action means, especially as a global south youth whose community is more exposed to the negative impacts of climate change. I share my current engagement, experience, lessons learned and challenges so as to inspire youth from across the globe to know that there is a level of our contribution in making the world a better place, and most of the time, this starts as simple as becoming a "Voice of Change".

My name is Ineza Umuhoza Grace; I am an Eco-Feminist, impact-driven, self-motivated actor in the environment and climate change sector, serving the global community especially vulnerable and marginalized groups based in Rwanda. I engage my work in contributing to climate justice through being a voice to the voiceless community in the decision-making process, showcasing lived experience of climate change impact from the frontline youth, and conducting action to regenerate hope in the community. 

The exposure to climate change impacts in my childhood left me curious and dedicated to understanding the environment. I was below the age of six when an intensive rainfall associated with solid wind destroyed my family house's ceiling. I remember my bedroom becoming a lake and seeking shelter in our neighbour’s house. 

When I finished high School, like so many of my colleagues, we wanted to be electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, architects, and all the fields that link to a STEM background. I watched the news, and in the rural part of Rwanda, flooding and erosion were extreme to the point that the community was in a state of emergency, and most of them were women and children.  That is when I decided to pursue my university course in an environmental field to learn how best to contribute to saving the community. It was a pain for me to see many children having to live the same choke as I did.  

I pursue water and environmental engineering at the University of Rwanda. In 2017, I pitched my idea on "How I want to contribute" to my university and local partners. My idea was to connect young Rwandans who commit to work in the environment protection field regardless of their educational background to minimize the environmental education gap and promote vibrant youth participation in the sector.  The idea resulted from my nomination among the 25 young emerging leaders across Africa. I was trained to become a leader who serves the community and participated in the United Nations conference on desertification to sign the global declaration of youth's contribution in achieving land neutrality. 

To date, the idea I pitched is "The Green Fighter". A Rwandan youth lead an NGO in the environment protection sector. We are a team of young people from different educational backgrounds committed to educating ourselves on how we can work together to promote environmental stability in our community. Our collective engagement can be clustered into Project design and implementation, environmental education, training and advocacy. In the past years, we conducted more than ten community activities to promote environmental education and awareness in the community; our activities reached 3,500 young people in Rwanda, shared four blogs, and advocated on the national and international level. 

Being a global south female leader of a youth NGO is undoubtedly associated with challenges. Starting from questions like "Do you have the expertise to understand the nature of the work you want to engage into", "How can you be a leader, you are a woman?", "Aren't you too ambitious for a global south youth organization?", "How will you secure funding for your engagement? There are practically no funds available!", "Isn't this a hobby?". All of this and similar ones made us stronger and encouraged us to stay true to our commitment and prove that we can actively contribute on the national and international levels.

As a team, we increase our self-driven commitment by reading more especially in the international climate dialogue, analysing what tends to be our community's limitation (most of the time our voice is not represented on the decision-making table). We focused on doing better what we can (sharing community voices, explaining community concerns on the decision-making table). We worked closely with our local institutions, which made us capable of giving a global contribution. 

In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we realized that climate injustice is the most threatening aspect. This is associated with the severity of the climate change impacts referred to as "loss and damage" as the global climate inaction, especially from developed countries, leading to environmental instability and the uncertainty of the future of our planet. 

We started what is currently known as the "loss and damage youth coalition", aiming to shape a borderless youth partnership in driving action to address loss and damage. Our activities are centered on changing the extent of climate change impacts by sharing the frontline youth lived experience. 

Conveying the global youth demands to global leaders to seek climate justice in open letters and training youth across the globe to increase their knowledge on the issue. To date, we have a presence in more than 45 countries with the number of 250 members, sent an open letter to the UK COP 26 presidency of COP and the USA government, and share youth experience in terms of blogs and public speaking.  The challenge of a global youth initiative operating remotely is to do what we can in the best way, driving global youth ambition and contribution in achieving climate justice. 

In conclusion, challenges for young actors, predominantly female in the climate sector, can't be ignored. The motivation of young people to see a more just future for the next generation is vital to the point that we persist in the challenges. We learn, educate ourselves and connect beyond borders to strengthen our support in convey tangible activities for our community. 

Ineza is an eco-feminist impact-driven actor in the climate change and environment protection sector serving the global community-based in Rwanda. In 2017 she started the Rwandan Youth NGO “The Green Fighter” with the aim to increase an active contribution in the creation of a better and protected environment in the community. In 2020, she co-founded the “Loss and Damage Youth Coalition” aiming to create a borderless youth partnership to seek climate justice through taking action on loss and damage.

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