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Senegalese 'youth representatives' discuss climate change

© UNICEF/Senegal/2009/Koutcho
Birame Wane, Ndeye Asse Diagne, Abdou Azziz Mbaye and Khadidiatou Diop were delegates for Senegal at the children's climate Forum.

Dakar, Senegal, 18 December 2009 - Sixteen-year-old Ndeye Asse Diagne found herself unable to sleep one night during her recent UNICEF-sponsored trip to Denmark.

Diagne had arrived as one of the four members of the Senegalese youth delegation to the Children's Climate Forum in Copenhagen.

The forum, which was a run-up event to the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference, brought together 165 youth representatives from 44 countries, and Diagne was one of the four delegates from the West African country.

As part of the forum’s workshops and presentations on climate change, youth delegates shared information about how climate change was affecting their countries.

Diagne said the images her peers from Bangladesh shared from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami had lingered with her and left her even more determined to address the issue—both in her country, throughout West Africa, and all over the world.

Insights from around the world

UNICEF Senegal sponsored the country’s presence at the event, which allowed the West African teenagers to participate in meaningful workshops about the effects of climate change, and what their generation can do to ensure their countries address the problem.

All four delegates said the opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas with their peers from around the world was their favorite part of the forum.

Khadidiatou Diop, who also served as one of just eight ambassadors from around the world, said during the workshops about subjects such as using renewable energy, she learned about problems other countries are facing.

"I was especially touched by the delegation from Maldives," said the 17-year-old.

"They are an island nation that is just one meter above sea level, and life for them has become very hard, because of climate change."

Diop added that the Senegalese delegation shared important facts with the international crowd, such as information about how coastal areas of Senegal are adversely affected by rising sea levels.

"We talked about our problems, but we also talked about how we think Senegal can set a good example for other countries," she said.

"We only contribute to 0.06% of the world’s carbon emissions, and we are trying to use solar energy for heating and powering certain things."

Important information from experts

In between exchanges with their peers, the teenagers garnered important knowledge from experts and researchers in the climate change field.

"It was a beautiful experience," said Abdoul Aziz Mbaye. "I am very interested in starting new projects, and they taught us where to begin, for example how to make an appeal and who you should approach."

The work continues back home

Just days after returning to Dakar from their first trip to Europe, all four Senegalese teenagers stressed that their work has just begun.

"It doesn’t stop here," Diagne said. "We need to continue the work."

Diop says they have decided upon a few areas of action, but one of the first and most important goals is to share knowledge about the effects of climate change with others.

"The issue is that people are not aware of the problem," she said. "We are of course going to start by talking to students at our school."

Diagne added they would also like to organize a concert with well-known musicians to help get their message in to the public arena.

They are also organizing environmental clubs in their schools to promote climate change awareness and educate their peers about issues such as littering and how they can mobilize recycling efforts.

Meanwhile, for the four representatives from Senegal say their lives have changed since returning from Copenhagen, as they try to set good examples for their fellow students.
"When we’re on breaks from class, all we can talk about is climate change!" says Diagne.

And Diop quickly adds that she believes her generation can make significant positive impacts.

"I think that first we start with the kids, because the kids can easily learn to use green energy and recycle. And if they grow up like that, it will change," she says.

"But of course we need to change the adults, too."

By Rouxanna Lokhat




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