SADC youths challenge leaders on inclusion in climate change matters

A learner, Ester Maganizo, from Mpasa Secondary School in Nsanje, has challenged leaders in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to include the voices of children and the youth in matters of climate change and its effects.

She made the call on Wednesday at the signing ceremony of UNICEF’s Declaration of Children, Youth and Climate Action that took place prior to the official opening of the SADC Regional Green Climate Conference held at the Bingu Inter1 Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.

The girl narrated how she and her family members were affected by the past cyclones in Nsanje and how the children were ignored in the needs assessment exercise that government, local and inter1 NGOs conducted in the affected areas.

Ganizani said as a student and a child who witnessed, and survived, cyclones Ana, Gombe, and Dumako, respectively, among other cyclones, she represented all the children in the country and surrounding countries.

“My community, in the last few months, was affected by floods which swept away homes, schools, and destroyed hospitals; I and my family had to go and live at a camp for a few days before we went back home,”  

“Government officials and representatives from NGOs came with different relief items to the camps; they held meetings with our parents, teachers, chiefs, and other leaders but not the children and the youths,” she added.

SADC Climate Action – Regional Green Climate Conference
Ganizani : We, children, need to have our voices on climate change challenges heard Pic. By Kondwani Magombo _ Mana

The girl observed that, as children and the youth, they do not contribute to the changes in climate change as much as adults do but they are affected by climate change as much as, or more than, the adults.

Maganizo described the failure to consult children and the youth in such matters as “a loss” as their needs are excluded from climate change-related decision-making processes at all levels.

“No one consults us to find out how we are affected by the change, or what our needs are: Excluding us is a big loss as we are in large numbers and we have the energy and ideas to contribute,” she said.

The learner complained that the children and the youth are not involved in adaptation activities – except for the occasional tree planting exercises.

Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Eisenhower Mkaka, concurred with Maganizo, quoting UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index Report, which names Malawi as being among the top 40 countries worldwide where children are highly impacted by climate change.

The Minister noted that the impacts pose an unprecedented threat to the health, nutrition, education, development, and the very survival of children.

SADC Climate Action – Regional Green Climate Conference
Mkaka: Time for more action on climate change challenges Pic. By Kondwani Magombo _ Mana

“Following the deliberations of COP26, and looking at the roadmap for COP 27, the Government of Malawi has decided to make a formal commitment to support this cause and ensure that children’s rights are well embedded in all main sector policies and strategies on climate change, starting from the 1ly Determined Contributions,” he explained.

Mkaka continued: “To this end, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change, has today taken the opportunity of this event to sign the UNICEF’s Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.”

UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Shigeki Komatsubara, commended the Government of Malawi, for “taking an important commitment to further promote the climate and youth agenda” by signing the UNICEF’s Declaration on Children, Youth and Climate Action.