Aug 12, 2020

It’s been nearly 11 months since Greta Thunberg delivered her speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit but I’m still thinking about her words: “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Young people like Greta should be playing, hanging out with her friends and making the most out of her teenage years but there she was—calling out politicians like it’s the most natural teen-thing to do. 

“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” 

And true enough, more youth climate activists are stepping up to make a difference. These are kids and teens who seem too small for the world but are already creating bigger impacts than most of us.


Licypriya Kangujam, 8

Licypriya is considered the world’s youngest climate activist. Her love for social work and the environment was inspired by her father who is a local activist in India. 

When she was six, she was able to attend the 3rd Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Mongolia. She’s also received three awards so far: the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Children Award, a World Children Peace Prize and an India Peace Prize.


At present, she’s leading a project that aims to build a school made of recycled materials in India.


Mari Copeny, 12

In 2016, Mari wrote a letter to then-U.S. president Barack Obama, urging him to address the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Since then, she has been actively advocating for access to clean and safe drinking water.


She was able to raise around $500,000 to help 25,000 children in Flint and other communities. She gave them school supplies, bikes, clean water and other necessities. She also partnered with a water filtration company to bring water filters to communities dealing with water contamination.


Yola Mgogwana, 12

Yola started her journey as a climate activist when she saw the state of her community in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. She then became a member of EarthChild Project Eco Warriors, an organization that “aims to inspire a new generation of healthy, confident and conscious young leaders” by teaching practical skills such as yoga and organic gardening to over 3,500 children and 300 teachers.

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Hero Friday #4 Yola Mgogwana, 11, Cape Town, South Africa 💚🌎 At 11 years old Yola Mgogwana is speaking out against climate injustice. Her immediate environment is changing and becoming more polluted and dangerous “My age does not mean my views on the world are not valid,” she said. Mgogwana committed to taking action after joining the Earthchild Project, which provides environmental education to under-resourced schools. Through the project Mgogwana has learnt about growing organic vegetables and helps to monitor the water and electricity used by the school, but knowing these are small steps in a wider picture Mgogwana is calling for those in power to listen and respond to the climate crisis. Yola was fronting Cape Town’s first youth-led climate based protest action back in March, where nearly 2,000 learners protested against climate inaction outside Parliament. “I’m starting a conversation in my community that will affect the rest of the world,” she says. Everyone is collectively waking up to the climate crisis and it’s the continents such as Africa that are among the first to feel the huge devastating impacts of the climate changing. What we're starting to see is it's not just Greta Thunberg who is rising up but young people from all over the world have had enough. We'll be posting more about these amazing young people in our Hero Friday's – they're truly inspirational. #FridaysForFuture #HeroFridays #YolaMgogwana #climatestrike #NaturalClimateSolutions Image credit: Beautiful News and UNFPA ESARO

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In March 2019, she joined the first ever global climate protest action in South Africa. Yola and 2,000 other protesters urged the Parliament to confront the climate crisis.


Nkosi Nyathi, 17

As someone who grew up near Victoria Falls, a famous tourist spot in Zimbabwe, Nkosi saw something beyond its beauty—open waste dumps and eroded land. To reduce waste and produce sustainable energy, he led the implementation of the first biogas plant in his community. He also went to local radio stations to raise awareness on climate change.

In 2020, he attended the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development and delivered a speech as UNICEF Youth Climate Ambassador in a meeting of the Group of Friends of Children and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“I have realised that our efforts as young people are in vain if we can’t take our fight to higher platforms and decision makers—platforms such as this one. So I also advocate for world leaders to include children and young people and their ideas and input in your policy and decision making,” said Nkosi.


Header photo courtesy of Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash

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TAGS: climate change greta thunberg licypriya kangujam mari copeny nkosi nyathi yola mgogwana youth climate activists