Young people are living the reality of climate change.
There are more than 1.8 billion young people in the world today. They are most vulnerable and most motivated to make change.
Young people are not only affected by the immediate, short-term results of climate events, they will also live with the long-term effects of climate change for decades to come. The world is already experiencing an increase in catastrophic weather events around the globe, leading to an increase in humanitarian crises.
Trishna Bala Mondal is 26 years old and lives in the village of Shamnagar in the Satkhira district of Bangladesh. She gave birth to her first child, Sanco, in a cyclone center just after Cyclone Amphan hit their region.
Young people, particularly girls, are most vulnerable to the many effects of climate change, as well as the effects of lack of access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Even when sheltering with friends or family, young women and girls face additional burdens during times of crisis. Stigma and lack of information surrounding menstruation contribute to girls’ critical need for safe, women-led support.
Selena Parvin sees this every day in her role as a community health volunteer in Datinakhali Village, Shamnagar, in the Satkhira district in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has the fourth-highest rate of child marriage in the world, with many parents viewing early marriage as the only way to safeguard their daughter’s future. More than half of all girls in Bangladesh are married when they are only children. A first period is often viewed as a sign that a girl is ready for marriage and motherhood.
Many women in these stories, including Selena, talk about water contamination and the effects on women’s health, including irregular or early menstruation, urinary tract infections, and other conditions.
When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March of 2019, 90 percent of Beira was destroyed. The catastrophic damage included most homes and schools in the area.
When access to education is reduced because of climate events, young people suffer. Schools may close or be destroyed. Or girls may miss or drop out of school because they’re forced to work, or travel to collect water, or are married early.
Laura Joaquim Amandio was able to shelter with her children at her sister-in-law’s house.
When she returned to her own home Laura was able to see the extent of the devastation. The cyclone had destroyed all their belongings, including everything her daughter Benita needed for school.
With her daughter unable to go to school and all the extra burdens caused by the cyclone, Laura says she is focused on the future and how to best provide for herself and her family. She wants to ensure her daughter can continue her education, and has hopes for going back to school herself if she is able.
Regina Charumar, a climate activist and founder of several environmental initiatives in Mozambique, says she feels there’s hope for climate justice in her country because young people are leading the way.