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Voices of children and youths in climate dialogues

Collaborating with organizations like Kayapalat, Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, Queer Care, and Blue Diamond Society, Save the Children has launched campaigns such as Panni Se Dur Janakpur, Shift, Generation Hope, and Red Alert

Voices of children and youths in climate dialogues

In some Tarai districts, schools have closed due to climate change impacts, highlighting a lack of attention to the effects on children and youth. Global climate discussions often overlook how climate events affect young people, especially those from vulnerable groups. Save the Children Nepal is actively engaged in youth-focused initiatives to address climate challenges and environmental pollution, empowering young individuals to lead climate action. Collaborating with organizations like Kayapalat, Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, Queer Care, and Blue Diamond Society, Save the Children has launched campaigns such as Panni Se Dur Janakpur, Shift, Generation Hope, and Red Alert. The following narratives showcase the experiences of some children and youth engaged in these campaigns:

Diwakar Uprety, Founder, Kayapalat, Madhes Province

The Panni Se Dur Janakpur campaign in the Janakpur sub-metropolitan city of Madhes province aims to reduce the use of plastic products. Plastic is omnipresent and takes approximately 4,100 years to decompose, posing a significant threat to the environment and future generations. Its adverse effects on society are compounded when considering the detrimental impact on children and youth, making the campaign crucial for prevention and mitigation efforts. A World Health Organization report revealed microplastics in the blood of seven to 13 percent of individuals, underscoring the urgency of addressing the plastic crisis. Furthermore, plastic pollution contributes to climate change. To empower youth in tackling this issue, the campaign was implemented with the support of Save the Children, successfully raising awareness among young individuals about the challenges posed by climate change and its repercussions on their lives. Initiated in 2021, this campaign has made significant strides in promoting social reform.

Pushpa Acharya, Engineer, Shift, Karnali Province

Even in Karnali, a province facing developmental challenges, the impact of climate change is evident. The region's bare hills and water scarcity have not only affected the adult population but have also posed challenges for children and youth. The Shift campaign, initiated as part of Save the Children's My Forest Child project, addresses the community's changing environment. This initiative involves collaboration with the forest consumer committee, children, and local authorities to plant trees, raise awareness about climate change, and empower children to address environmental issues. On World Environment Day, 24 children from Jajarkot are leading a campaign under the Shift initiative. The campaign aims to involve schools, community forest users, assistant forest offices, and other stakeholders in activities such as planting 600 saplings in Chhedagad Municipality of Jajarkot district, Karnali. 

Anjali Shahi Chalise, Network Coordinator, Nepalese Youth for Climate Action

Youth are often described as the backbone of a nation, embodying the potential to become mentally, physically, and socially competent individuals. Nepalese Youth for Climate Action was established to address the impact of climate change on young people, recognizing it as a global crisis. This organization advocates for climate action through extensive youth engagement, conducting advocacy, public awareness campaigns, and capacity-building initiatives. Previously, the organization implemented the Red Alert program and currently runs the Shift Captain campaign, which was established in 2008 and has established chapters in seven provinces. Engaging with approximately 500 schools, the campaign aims to raise public awareness about the impact of climate change on children and youth through various art forms, prioritizing education over mere verbal communication. To commemorate World Environment Day, the campaign has organized a week-long program featuring climate-related activities such as children's panel discussions, solidarity marches, and other events.

Suman Gyawali, Member, Queer Care

It is often acknowledged that the rights of individuals, including those with disabilities, marginalized groups, Dalits, women, and sexual and gender minorities, especially youth and children, are not adequately safeguarded. The experiences of young people differ from those of sexual minorities, necessitating tailored programs that address their unique needs. In response to this, the Queer Care campaign has been launched to provide targeted support for these groups, aiming to mitigate the mental health impacts of climate change and create a more inclusive society. This campaign was initiated due to the lack of an enabling environment for these communities. With the backing of Save the Children, the campaign, scheduled to run from June to November, aims to benefit over 100 youth from these diverse groups through a series of art seminars, mental health workshops, and other initiatives.

‘Climate crisis is a child rights crisis’

Ayush Joshi, Director of Advocacy, Campaigns, Communications and Media (ACCM)

Save the Children acknowledges that the current climate crisis poses a significant challenge to child rights, viewing it as a cross-generational crisis that represents the most severe threat to children’s well-being, education, and protection. Without effectively addressing this crisis, achieving resilient and sustainable development goals, particularly for marginalized communities and vulnerable children and families, will be unattainable. Save the Children advocates for upholding children's rights by developing a strategic plan aimed at shielding all children from trauma and stress through empowering children, families, and systems. 

In climate discussions, there is often an over-reliance on ‘experts’, sidelining the invaluable lived experiences and knowledge of children and young individuals. In Nepal, Save the Children serves as a mediator, actively involving children from diverse regions and empowering them to participate in conversations about and offer solutions to the climate crisis. Our approach prioritizes listening, meaningful engagement, and empowering children and youth to play a leading role in climate dialogues. We approach campaigns through a localized perspective, ensuring not just the availability of resources but also advocating for children and young people’s voices to be emphasized and their expertise to be recognized. 

Within climate justice advocacy and campaigns, it is crucial to advance and support the leadership of children and youth, strategically leveraging their voices to influence both local and global conversations and sharing influence and resources to establish proactive strategies. Our recent publication, ‘Breathless Futures’, sheds light on the detrimental effects of air pollution on children and minority groups. The report demonstrates that poor air quality poses numerous health risks, such as respiratory illnesses, skin conditions, and pregnancy complications. It stresses the importance of looking beyond the health consequences of air pollution, considering its broader impact on children’s overall well-being and development. 

Through consultations, children have expressed concerns about school closures, disrupted learning, and constraints on their families’ livelihoods due to air pollution. Viewing air pollution as a critical issue with severe repercussions for children, women, and minority groups, advocacy efforts and campaigns should incorporate the real-life experiences of these groups and challenge biases and norms that downplay the severity of the air pollution threat.

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