By Danyelle Kawamura, GFL Communications Intern
“We believe that every activist has a story to tell and every story has a solution to give, and every solution has a life to change…We also believe that the climate movement doesn’t have just one face or two faces or three faces.” – Vanessa Nakate
The virtual event, Inclusive Voices for Climate Solutions held on January 25, 2022 was hosted by Vital Voices and moderated by Tazreen Hussain, Vital Voices Director of Leadership and Social Impact. The event highlighted perspectives from young female leaders working both within the climate space and on the frontlines of climate activism. Inclusive Voices for Climate Solutions explored ways in which we can ensure climate change solutions are both informed by and uplifting the voices of those who are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change.
Vanessa Nakate shared her perspectives at the event. Vanessa is an inspirational Ugandan climate activist, founder of the Rise Up Climate Movement and leader of the global network chapter, First Fridays For Future climate activists in Uganda. In 2020, she was named a UN Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals and was listed as one of BBC’s 100 inspirational and influential women of the year. In 2021, Vanessa was further honored with the Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF) Next Generation Award for climate change activism due to her work such as leading a campaign to save the Congo rainforests in the face of massive deforestation. Currently, Vanessa is working on the Vash Green Schools Project that focuses on the installation of solar panels and eco-friendly cookstoves in the rural schools of Uganda with the help of local communities and teachers.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim also shared her perspectives at the virtual event. Hindou is a Chadian Environmental Activist, geographer, and advocate for greater inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge in the movement to fight the effects of climate change. She recently received the 2019 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, and was appointed as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate. Hindou was also named one of the 15 Women Championing Actions on Climate Change by Times Magazine in 2019. Given her Indigenous background, she is currently working on a project to give African women documented land titles to promote agro-ecology based on traditional and Indigenous knowledge. Hindou is also working on a project to create 2D Participatory Mapping. She aims to keep the traditional African languages in their mappings to help translate the knowledge from one generation to the next. Hindou states that this is not her job, but it is her life. She was born an activist and it is the reality of her community and her duty as an Indigenous person.
“It’s really mind blowing how you can’t have climate justice without racial justice because many communities, many people who are on the frontline of the climate crisis…you find that they are black communities or people of color not just on the African continent.” – Vanessa Nakate
In 2020 the Associated Press (AP) published a photo at Davos of four female activists. This photo included Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson, Luisa Neubauer, Loukina Tille, and Vanessa Nakate. The activist cropped from the photo was Vanessa. This portrayed a clear visual representation of the experience of people of color and those of the global South being left out of climate conversations. Despite AP’s apology, Vanessa has shared her frustrations as it was the first time she felt or experienced something close to what she would call racism and made the connection to the intersection of racial and climate justice. The ugly truth is that, despite the African continent being on the front-lines of the climate crisis, they are not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers. The issue itself was addressed in depth in Vanessa’s book A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis which was published in November of 2021.
Similarly, Hindou speaks on the various ways women are marginalized. She spoke on the constant battle to get a seat at both international conferences and around decision-making tables. Hindou shared that it is important to attend events as a team of Indigenous peoples to enforce the feeling of being a community as well as being able to support and back whoever is speaking. Hindou also states that it is a constant fight to be present for climate negotiations.Very few women are seen in negotiator roles, let alone Indigenous women.
Both Vanessa and Hindou stated that it is their vision that keeps them in activism. The feel inspired witnessing women becoming included at decision-making tables, even if they wish there were more, especially more indigenous women. They are both driven, it is for the benefit of future generations, to continue to demand climate justice and foster relationships to ensure their voices are heard. We all have a role to play in supporting activists like Vanessa and Hinou to fulfill SDG5 and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in this fight for climate justice.