Patricia Juan Perez: “adolescents and young people are a major force for environmentalism in Cuba”
Patricia is a 21-year-old young woman who coordinates an environmental education project. In the My Action for the Planet campaign, coordinated by UNICEF’s office in Cuba, she has found a valuable space for learning and exchange.
Patricia Juan Perez is 21 years old and she studies Art History at the University of Havana. From her experience in environmental activism, she has been connected to the My Action for the Planet campaign, coordinated by UNICEF’s office in Cuba, in coordination with the Ministry of Education and other partners.
Patricia founded the “Gaia” environmental education project along with her fellow university student Paula Najmias. “It came from our interest in getting actively involved in the environmental education of children and adolescents. We detected the need to update and invigorate forms of learning related to the question of the environment and we decided to start a project in order to contribute to a more comprehensive education, which could achieve a local impact”.
They intend to raise awareness in the younger generations regarding the climate issues faced by the world today, and to encourage them to become actors for change in their own context. They also want to promote an intergenerational dialog, in which the views of young people may find a space and contribute to decision-making processes.
Patricia became connected with UNICEF Cuba’s work on adolescent empowerment regarding climate change when she was selected to participate in the Youth4Climate event, which was part of PreCOP26. “The UNICEF Cuba team contacted me and offered support and educational resources to prepare for Y4C. From that moment on, we began to collaborate in several experiences and activities related to climate action”.
"I’ve also participated in the workshops of the My Action for the Planet campaign, which have stood out during the pandemic as a valuable space for environmental education. I collaborated with the promotion of the campaign in the TV program El Triángulo de la Confianza and as writer for the news section of UNICEF Cuba’s webpage. Additionally, I was a young delegate at the Second Conference on Scientific Evidence and Public Policies: Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean, sponsored by UNICEF Latin America and the Meri Foundation”.
My Action for the Planet is a UNICEF Cuba campaign that promotes the empowerment and participation of adolescents in the inclusive management of multiple disaster risks reductions and in the resilience against the negative effects of climate change in Cuba. Its main target group are children from 250 communities in six of the country’s provinces that are exposed to multiple risks. At the same time, it works with around 50 adolescents and young people from environmental projects in eight Cuban territories.
For Patricia, the greatest value of the campaign and the workshops is that they have reached adolescents and young people from several provinces. Most initiatives of this kind are clustered in the capital city. In this experience, we have had the participation of various regions and that has been tremendously important. It allowed us to know many different experiences and to join forces in a wider network of adolescents and young people. Virtual platforms have been an important tool to keep up the work on the subject of climate, despite the pandemic. I especially appreciate the effective didactic materials shared by UNICEF as part of the campaign”.
Patricia believes adolescents and young people are a major force for environmentalism in Cuba, since they are receptive, enthusiastic and open to new ideas. “The inclusion of the younger generations in climate action is essential so they feel a part of the movement and join it with determination. It is necessary to contribute to a solid education on the subject that will allow them to offer solutions and initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change”.
For Patricia, initiatives like My Action for the Planet are fundamental in order to make progress on the way to an effective environmental education. Nevertheless, she believes there are still many challenges in that sense.
“My impression is that there are basic misconceptions regarding environmental education and lack of knowledge about human impact on the environment and its consequences. Changing those perceptions, which are often established by families and other spaces for exchange, is one of the greatest challenges”.
“From my point of view, the most complicated task is getting adolescents and young people not only to learn contents related to the climate issue, but also to apply them in their daily lives. Accomplishing this would be the greatest achievement of an effective environmental education, since its main goal is to transform ways of living, and thus promote more sustainable development”.