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13-year-old girl champions climate change discourse

Story by Memory Chamisa

INCLUSION of young people in the climate change discourse has been cited as critical in plugging knowledge gaps.

It was a rare but fruitful day as 13-year-old Kenyan environment enthusiast, Ellyanne Wanjiku Chlystun engaged the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife in Harare this Monday as she champions climate change advocacy in schools.

The teenager who is carrying the global environment flag, having planted over one million trees in her country since the age of four, has set a target to plant at least one trillion more before the age of 18.

Her visit to Zimbabwe comes after leading the just-ended United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai with a team of the Children’s Committee from around the world.

“Our participation is a right that should be central to the formulation of public policy that affects an estimated two billion children in the world of the ages zero to 14 years. I was motivated by the late Prof Wangari Maathai, who was feted a Nobel Prize for her work in environmental conservation. Global leaders cannot run away from the truth that young people, are the strongest agents of change in different sections of our society. We have been left behind in matters of climate action. Our voices must be heard. We are demanding the right to participate fully,” said Chlystun.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife Professor Prosper Matondi highlighted the significance of the “catch them young” concept in enabling climate change education in schools.

“It is heart-warming when you see children as young as Ellyanne championing climate change issues that most elders are ignorant of. As Zimbabwe, we are happy with her visit and look forward to fruitful sessions with other youngsters in schools as she gets to appreciate what is being done in mitigating climate change, especially for children and women who are the most vulnerable. It is imperative as governments to include climate change curriculum in schools to ensure that they know what is expected of them and play their part in keeping the environment clean and green,” said Professor Matondi.

Ellyanne’s passion for environmental stewardship has also seen her addressing high-profile global leaders including President Emmanuel Macron of France during the Paris Agreement for Young People organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Her dream is to influence policy and lawmakers to achieve a clean global environment, including pushing electric vehicles and greater usage of green energy such as geothermal, wind and solar power.

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