Young climate activist Yola Mgogwana at a march in Khayelitsha. Picture: Beautiful News
Young climate activist Yola Mgogwana at a march in Khayelitsha. Picture: Beautiful News

Young environmental warriors wants government to declare climate crisis

By Kristin Engel Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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Cape Town - A young climate activist from Khayelitsha and her environmental mentor have urged government to declare a climate change crisis in a speech delivered in their Tutu Talk titled, ’Climate Warriors without Barriers’.

The talk was featured on Tuesday by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in partnership with H&M South Africa and the African Leadership Institute.

In the talk, 13-year-old Yola Mgogwana and mentor Xoli Fuyani, from Gugulethu, went into detail to explain how climate change was a social justice issue already affecting people in Khayelitsha.

Fuyani and Mgogwana became acquainted through the Earthchild Project, a non-profit organisation that worked with children from disadvantaged schools in Cape Town, where Fuyani was an educational coordinator, and Mgogwana became an eco-warrior.

“Our hope is to raise awareness and show what courageous leadership looks like. Marginalised populations are those who have the smallest carbon footprint, but due to their socio-economic status, geographical location and gender, they are the ones who experience the worst effects of climate change,” said Fuyani.

“Back in 2017, we had about 11% of drinkable water left. In the midst of this water crisis, 'privileged citizens’ started using the spring water at pumps and boreholes, and water recycling became standard in every home – but not everyone was affected in the same way,” said Fuyani.

Fuyani said Mgogwana experienced this first hand after having to fetch water for her house from a communal tap, using dangerous pit toilets that were not safe or clean, and to this day, there was still no guarantee of clean water in Khayelitsha.

“We, as the youth, are supposed to be enjoying our freedom, but now we are fighting for our future because of adults who don’t want to sit at the table with us and discuss solutions to the climate change challenge,” said Mgogwana.

The environmental mentor said although climate change was primarily a result of burning fossil fuels, each individual had a role to play in the battle against climate change.

“Everyone should urge our government to take bold, ambitious climate action now, leading up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference,” said Fuyani.

Foundation chief effective officer Piyushi Kotecha said the Climate Warriors without Barriers Tutu Talk continued the public discussion, started last year through the 10th annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, to urgently address climate change as a social justice issue.

H&M South Africa Country Manager Caroline Nelson said: “H&M is proud of its collaboration with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in its aim to promote courageous conversations on some of the world’s most intractable topics, and to promote the profiles of young African leaders, especially women.”

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Cape Argus

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