We saw 15-year-old Greta Thunberg protest outside her school in 2018. We then saw 14-year-old Alexandria Villasenor of the USA protest outside the UN headquarters, every Friday. 15-year-old Lesein Mutunkei of Kenya planted a tree for every goal he scored. 13-year-old Aditya Mukarji of India campaigned for plastic alternatives within his local hospitality sector.
The youth approach to climate action is global. It is united. Powerful.
It captures the globe's attention. Perhaps our hearts… “wow… even at their age, look at what they’re doing…”
Youth activism should not surprise us. Amidst an entirely unnatural, catastrophic climate emergency, the relationship between young activists and their ever-enduring passion to protect their planet, is entirely natural. This sense of urgency comes from a very real, valid place. It is the youngest members of our global citizenship who ultimately have the most to bear through the climate emergency.
For the past four years, the Scottish Government has funded the Malawi Young Climate Leaders project, run by the Scottish-based 2050 Climate Group and our sister organisation in Malawi, the Malawi Scotland Partnership.
Championed by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the project exists to support climate ambitions, innovations and passions of young people in Malawi. By building knowledge and skills, young leaders support their communities towards a sustainable, low-carbon and climate resilient future. The project has planted 14,000 trees since 2019, has engaged and worked with over 4,000 young people and provided training to 85 young people, focusing on afforestation, waste management, awareness, advocacy, and innovations focusing on transition to clean energy.
Among them is David Samikwa who leads the 30-member strong, Tikambe Youth Organisation, who focus on the deforestation crisis in their community in the Mwanza District. David and the organisation offer training in briquette and biogas production as a solution to excessive charcoal production and use.
What is perhaps most unique about the Malawi Young Climate Leaders project, is that participants become not only climate leaders, but community leaders who educate and inspire. Their legacy and impact, huge. Just a few weeks ago, the Malawi Scotland Partnership launched the ‘Climate Change Young Leaders Alumni Network’. Led by a national youth committee, networking, coordination and action continues.
Launching the Malawi Young Climate Leaders project, the First Minister said: “The 2050 Climate Group and Young Leaders Development Programme do fantastic work empowering our young leaders to support the delivery of a just, low-carbon future. I am pleased that with Scottish Government support it is now possible to expand their efforts, to work in partnership with young people in Malawi through the Malawi Scotland Partnership on the need for global climate action.”
The Scottish Government-funded ‘COP26 Youth Hub’, based in Lilongwe, saw a packed agenda, launched by the hugely successful ‘Earth Parade’. Functioning as a COP26 centre-point in Malawi, the hub was attended by 320 young climate activists from across the country, who could respond live to COP26 events in Glasgow.
The Scottish Government is to be applauded for its far-sighted support for Scotland-Malawi youth climate activism.
C.S. Lewis said ‘integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching’. It is essential that Scotland maintains its commitments to internationalism and climate justice, even when the global limelight of COP26 moves on. We are therefore extremely concerned at rumours that this impactful funding may end in the coming weeks, just months after being celebrated by the President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, and Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, during COP26.
Young leader Chifundo Zingunde said: “If the Scottish Government continue to support the project, there is so much that young people in Malawi will continue to do to fight for our world by doing more for our climate.”
Jade Stein, Media and Communications Officer, The Scotland Malawi Partnership