By Lisa Vives
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has at least two African partners stepping up on the global stage and telling world leaders to “wake up” and recognize the dangers to women and girls of climate change.
In a speech broadcast as part of the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture, Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate tied climate change to poverty, hunger, disease, conflict and violence.
“See the danger we are in,” Nakate urged the leaders at the Tutu peace lecture.
The lecture is given every year to coincide with the South African Nobel Peace Prize winner’s birthday. Tutu turned 89 on October 7. The pre-recorded speeches, not given in person this year because of the pandemic, called for “climate justice globally.”
Nakate’s speech focused on the African continent, which contributes the least to climate change but stands to suffer its effects the most.
“Climate change is a nightmare that affects every sector of our lives,” she said. “How can we eradicate poverty without looking at this crisis? How can we achieve zero hunger if climate change is leaving millions of people with nothing to eat? We are going to see disaster after disaster, challenge after challenge, suffering after suffering … if nothing is done about this.”
“Leave your comfort zones and see the danger we are in and do something about it. This is a matter of life and death,” she called out the world leaders.
There were also messages from South African climate activist Ayakha Melithafa and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who praised the younger generation’s work.
South African Melithafa is from a small farming town in the Eastern Cape which is also crippled by drought. She joined “Project 90 by 2030”, a social and environmental justice organization and now works as a recruitment official and spokesperson for the African Climate Alliance.
“We do need more people of colour in the fight against climate change,” Melithafa told Daily Maverick, a South African news publication. “I want people to know that not only privileged people are aware of climate change. The privileged people might be protesting because the quality of the water is getting worse, but people of colour have been drinking that water all along, and they feel lucky just to have water,” the young teen said.