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Media workshops empower youth to address climate change in Zambia

© Children's Radio Foundation
'Climate ambassadors' conduct interviews in Lusaka, Zambia.

By Nina Callaghan

LUSAKA, Zambia, 8 December 2011 – To 17-year-old Msonda Chibwana from Lusaka, climate change is not just a topic for debate; it is a reality that has affected his family’s livelihood and taken food from their table.

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“We only depended on profit made from selling fish and farm produce,” Msonda said. “Then there was a sudden change in the climate patterns. As a result, we faced serious drought. The rivers lakes and dams in Central Province dried up. The land also lost its fertility and the plants died.”

Msonda recorded his story in a Children’s Radio Foundation training workshop held in Lusaka, part of a UNICEF project  that equips young people with skills they need to produce media about climate change.

Unite for Climate

UNICEF is also setting up media workstations in each of Zambia’s nine provinces. These are places where youth reporters can meet, produce radio stories, write articles and encourage their communities to take action. Youth reporters can broadcast their material on local radio stations and contribute content to the uniteforclimate.org, a website for youth to learn about and express their views on the effects of global climate change.

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© Children's Radio Foundation
Youth Reporter Lilian Bulawo, 16, conducts interviews in her community for a story about climate change.

These efforts are part of the broader UNICEF Unite4Climate initiative, which empowers young ‘climate ambassadors’ to raise awareness of climate change issues in their communities.

The youth ambassadors are extremely passionate about climate change,” said UNICEF Zambia Chief of Communications Patrick Slavin. “They immediately connect to the issue and understand its gravity. And that they can do something about it.”

High hopes

As world leaders wind down their discussions at the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP17) in Durban, South Africa, there is hope they will secure a legally binding global agreement on climate change.

These hopes are shared by 18-year-old Jack Kafwanka, a Unite4Climate climate ambassador and a media trainer for the Children's Radio Foundation. “Such conferences represent the loudest and most united voice that speaks for the environment on how to implement agreements to save Mother Nature from environmental degradation."

But young leaders like Jack are also making sure change takes place.

“Our youth reporters use radio broadcasts to normalize issues that aren’t discussed in their communities,” said Children’s Radio Foundation Executive Director Mike Rahfaldt. “They also organize their media around action events like tree plantings and garbage pickups, so they are simultaneously shifting thoughts and practices on the community level,” he added.

© Children's Radio Foundation
Senior Climate Ambassador Jack Kafwanka, 18, trains youth reporters from Ndola.

Taking action

Taonga Mvula, 16, has done just this. She recorded an audio commentary on the state of her hometown, Ndola, a booming mining town in Zambia's Copperbelt Province. Waste management policies have not kept pace with the town’s rapid growth, resulting in heaps of garbage on the streets.

She appealed to her listeners to reduce, reuse and recycle. “That rubbish that is being disposed of in the streets can be taken to the recycling companies where they can come up with new products,” she said.

Taonga and her partners also plan to start media and environmental clubs at schools to educate their peers, and to write to parliamentarians and local councillors to improve services and recycling opportunities.

Children’s Radio Foundation trainer Yumna Martin, who has spent the past few months establishing media workstations across the country, sees reason for optimism.

"What has really struck me in all the provinces I've worked in is the real passion that has sprung from youth since having been empowered about climate change,” Yumna said. “It comes not only from being informed, but from being given the opportunity to start change themselves.”




VOICES:  Zambian children talk about the impact of climate change on their lives and advocate for change to tackle the problem.
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PSA: Young climate Ambassadors in Lusaka, Zambia, appeal to their communities to stop deforestration through this public service announcement aired on the local radio.
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