Youth urged to be bold in getting their voice heard and valued
by Kalisito Biaukula
A young feminist and human rights advocate has urged youth to ‘offend people’ and ‘make leaders uncomfortable’ in the fight to effectively address climate change.
Sharing her views on the youth perspective on action and advocacy for climate change resilience, Ms Zakiyyah Ali told the inaugural Pacific Resilience Meeting (PRM) in Suva that young people must be empowered to make decisions through representation and inclusion.
Ms Ali’s interest in climate change and resilience started as a 16-year-old, she is now a fourth year Law student at the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the winner of the University’s essay competition of the PRM.
“While climate change affects everyone, it has a greater impact on women, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, on the LGBTIQ+ communities, and youths fall in each of these categories,” Ms Ali told the PRM.
As a Fijian of Indian descent, Ms Ali expressed how she had always struggled with the idea of different identities and the concept of identity, wondering about her place in the debate.
“Am I the right person to be here?” She said to the meeting. “Is it my place to advocate for the person? But how can it not be, when I am a product of the Pacific and hold it as dear the next person.”
She highlighted the threat Pacific island communities face and the need for immediate action.
“Pacific island communities are extremely vulnerable to climate change and hazards, which add to our major challenges for the development aspirations of our people and we suffer disproportionately because of our environmental, social and economic vulnerability,” she said.
“Our very existence is threatened and this reinforces our need for immediate and effective action on climate change and disaster management.”
She acknowledged that young people in the Pacific face extraordinary hurdles to get their voice heard and valued.
“Let us offend people, allow us to make our leaders uncomfortable, let us do the dirty work, contrary what grown-ups believe about millennials, our passion does extend beyond avocado toasts and posting selfies on Instagram.”
In concluding, the young activist outlined the need for resilient development to embrace the role, vision and innovation of youth, who she said have the biggest stake in a resilient future.
“Efforts must be made to include more youth centered approaches at combating climate change, putting youth at the center of the advocacy process, engaging young people in the decision making realm, to enhance better understanding, planning and coordination at local, regional and international level.”
Ms Ali was among three speakers at the “Innovative Islands” session at the PRM, which continues until Friday.
The inaugural Pacific Resilience Meeting is held in Suva, Fiji from 1 – 3 May, 2019.
#PRM #PacificResilience Pacific Resilience Partnership
Photo Credit: Avikesh Kumar