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Young Kenyan Climate Activist Tackles Global Warming

Winnie Asiti, A young Kenyan environmental activist and a leader of the global climate youth movement
Winnie Asiti, A young Kenyan environmental activist and a leader of the global climate youth movement

A young Kenyan activist is part of a fast-moving low cost-movement that is tackling the impact of global warming at the local level.

Winnie Asiti is a board member comprised of young climate leaders that distribute small-scale grants to young, marginalized activists in global warming hotspots—from the Philippines to Iraq.

In its first two years, Global Greengrants’ Next Generation Climate Board reported it contributed $110,000 in 24 grants to 23 groups in 17 countries.

Described by her colleagues as a rising star of the next generation of environmental leaders she reflects on how she became a climate activist.

“I drew my inspiration from a lot of things. I joined the university environment club -- through that I got to interact with other like-minded young people. In 2006, climate change negotiations were being hosted by Kenya, and we all got an opportunity as university students to go to the meetings as volunteers and as observers. We got interested in climate change negotiations and climate change work,” explained Asiti.

She added she soon met other young people from other countries who were interested in the same field. During this time, the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) was established.

Asiti said women climate activists’ roles depend on the region of the world in which they live.

“I think a lot of women activists bring to the climate change debate the whole aspect of the human impacts of climate change. I think for me that is quite profound because women are able to relate to some of these things especially those that are coming from communities or countries where there are climate change effects such as drought, for example, in Kenya, floods, the coastal areas rising and all of that,” explained the young climate activist.

The Global Greengrants’ Next Generation Climate Board is focusing now on helping young activists prepare for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP) that is scheduled to take place later in the year in Paris.

“We are looking at supporting young people to carry out activities that are related and have an impact on the climate change negotiations that are going to take place in Paris. Those activities could be anywhere—at the local level, at the national level, or at the international level,” said Asiti.

She emphasized the importance of environmentally-engaged young people making their voices heard at the COP. She said she’s looking to have young people explain how they’re addressing climate change:

“[For example], what adaptation measures are they putting in place? Are they educating themselves? Are they learning from the elders-- for example about how communities were able to adapt to climate change?” asked Asiti.

She said there is a lot of local and indigenous knowledge that young people can tap into that could help their communities adapt to the effects of changing weather taking place now.

“It’s not just about the COP because our vision is to go beyond [it]. We want these groups to be able to make the linkages between the local, regional, international processes so that even when they come to the COP, they are able to take that knowledge back home and be able to link their own local activities, original activities, to what is happening at the international level,” stressed the young climate activist.