“Why a continent which suffers the most the effects of climate change is not represented when people are deciding how we will be living tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, twenty years and fifty years from now?”, asked Ely Katembo, West and Central Africa Coordinator at 350.org. In order to empower the African Youth in climate change science, international policy negotiations and leadership skills, 350.org gathered forty young people from Eastern and Southern Africa in a Climate Leadership Workshop in Johannesburg between June 14 and 19 to build their capacities for conducting local activism about climate change in their communities and countries.
The workshop tackled issues such as a good understanding of climate science and international policy, presentation of public narrative (story of self, story of now and story of now), effective communication, strategizing and campaigning organization.
All those skills are designed to empower participants for October 24th, a day of mobilization and action around the world about climate change issues. Participants are expected to organize and coordinate in their respective communities actions which includes rallies, marches, concerts, sensitization campaigns, education trainings, radio-televisions shows to raise awareness of the public opinion and mobilize their national delegates six weeks ahead to the crucial Copenhagen Climate Change Talks due to take place earlier December 2009 to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. The idea behind October 24th is to raise the voice of the youth and to push national delegates to Copenhagen negotiations to get back to 350ppm which is the safe level of CO2 concentration in our atmosphere.
During the workshop, participants realized that they have the potential, the energy and the capability to be pioneers of change in their areas. They refused to wait for solutions designed by others. The challenge is to have their voice and concerns heard and to be involved in decisions which will affect them and the next generations for tens of years ahead. “We can’t just sit and wait for our leaders and anybody else from outside to do it for us. Yes, we can fight for our rights and come up as young people and make a difference in our societies. We need to stand up and take action just now, not tomorrow” said Winnie Khaemba, a participant in the workshop from Kenya. They agreed upon to focus their efforts and join their voices this day to show to politicians leaders that youth all over the world share the same vision, a vision of a better world with a clean energy future.
The workshop was organized by 350.org, a youth-led, youth-run and youth-found network supported by partner organizations, university groups, local activists, community leaders, people of faith and businessmen. The network was started few years ago by students of Vermont, USA decided to spark the climate movement in the USA. At the moment, thousands of activists around the world have joined the network and struggle to mobilize the public opinion on climate change issues.