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Making change possible at Zambia’s third Children’s Climate Conference

By Kelvin Musonda and Yumna Martin

As 300 Climate Ambassadors from all of Zambia’s nine provinces packed their bags and headed home on August 20, 2011 they did not only take back knowledge. They also took back vital tools to be able to share what they have learned.

The third Zambian Children’s Climate Conference (ZCCC3) educated young people about Climate Change and HIV and AIDS. It also presented youth with a platform to express their views and equipped them with the skills needed to share what they learned.

The ZCCC3 was organized by UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources. For five days children between the ages of 12 and 17 analyzed their behaviour towards the environment as well as HIV and AIDS, allowing them to identify the most urgent problems and ways in which they will make changes within themselves and in their communities.

Acquiring the tools for change

It’s vital that youth are agents of change in their communities because they are directly affected by the spin-offs of Climate Change and HIV and AIDS. The consequences are often tragic and threaten to reverse Zambia’s development gains. Climate Change Ambassadors are embarking on a mission – a mission of change for the better.

Stella Nyendwa 17, from Chipata, Eastern province, says, “In my community deforestation is a big problem. But now that I’ve been to ZCCC3 I’ve learned how to reduce and overcome these human activities that contribute to Climate Change.

When I get back home I will confront these problems in my community, and instead of just cutting trees, I will plant trees in areas where there are none. The Youth Facilitators gave me the chance to see what I can also become, it was inspiring to see young people who are so passionate about mitigating Climate Change too,’ Stella said.

Paxima Phiri, 14 years old from Serenje in the Central province says, “In my community prostitution is a big problem, and as a result a lot of people are becoming HIV positive. It affects a lot of people in my community, because many children are left to become orphans.

What I would like to do, now that I have learned a lot here at the ZCCC3, is to work hand-in-hand with young girls to make people aware of HIV and AIDS, and have an open day with my HIV and AIDS club at my school.”

Paving the way for the future

For the first time ZCCC3 had 20 Youth Facilitators, who were previous Climate Ambassadors.

Vanessa Njovu, 18 years old, thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a Youth Facilitator, “I was very impressed by how knowledgeable and articulate the Climate Ambassadors are, and especially how committed they all are to learning.”

'Changing the world through the way we live’

Children are vital to creating awareness and understanding around Climate Change and HIV and AIDS. The knowledge and skills they attained at ZCCC3 taught young people that they can do their part to address climate change in their own communities.

Workshops addressed life skills, HIV and AIDS, water and sanitation, disaster risk reduction, and waste management, among other topics. Climate Ambassadors were also taught ways in which they can share what they have learned through theatre, writing, public speaking, art and radio.

UNICEF, in partnership with the Zambian government and the Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) will be rolling out multi-media training in all nine provinces, allowing Climate Ambassadors to increase their fellow Zambians’ awareness of these pressing issues and ensure that the voices of young children are considered by decision-makers.

 

 
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