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Hilda Flavia Nakabuye - How Young African climate activist is creating a youth revolution

April 01st, 2020
topic:Climate action
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Uganda
tags:Africa, climate activism, climate change, environment, Fridays For Future, Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, Uganda

For 22 year old Hilda Flavia Nakabuye from Uganda, climate change is a personal story. Growing up she watched her grandmother’s farm fail; the livestock and crops it produced were wiped out due to a drought. At university she attended a climate change dialogue that changed her entire life.

Now she has become a sworn climate change evangelist amplifying this debate from schools to international forums and boardrooms. She has been on a campaign to recruit more youth to her movement reminding them that their future depends on global leaders protecting that future.

Young African climate activist creating a youth revolution

For 22 year old Hilda Flavia Nakabuye from Uganda, climate change is a personal story. Growing up she watched her grandmother’s farm fail; the livestock and crops it produced were wiped out due to a drought. At university she attended a climate change dialogue that changed her entire life.

She spoke to FairPlanet about her climate change activism, the Fridays for Future movement and her message to the global community. 

FairPlanet: Climate change is a subject that hasn’t quite connected with the youth. You are an "aggressive" young climate activist. Where did the inspiration come from and how has the journey been?

Hilda: When I was a small girl, I noticed how my grandmother’s produce including potatoes, cassava and bananas were all being wiped out by prolonged dry spells and livestock dying as drought extended for unusually long periods. I didn’t comprehend why this was happening. Then when I joined Kampala University I happened to attend a climate dialogue that was organised by Green Climate Campaign Africa, GCCA. That dialogue changed my perspective about climate and how it relates to our people. So I decided to do something about it. I joined GCAA.

I started doing different activities including creating awareness about climate change, because as was the case with me who knew nothing about climate change before the dialogue, the subject was alien to so many Ugandans. Working with like-minded people we would move to schools and other public places just talking one on one with everyone we could to demystify the subject. 

"There is a lot of misinformation and lack of information about climate change which has only exacerbated the crisis."

Tell us about Fridays for Future Uganda Chapter. What is it and what has it achieved so far?

Fridays for Future is a global movement started by my mentor and fellow climate activist Greta Thunberg that organises various events on Fridays to amplify the climate change message across the world. I started the Uganda chapter in 2019. It is a youth-led movement that calls on governments, corporations and individuals to take a proactive role in addressing the climate crisis.

We hold strikes every Fridays, carry out awareness campaigns on a host of subjects including pollution and importance of planting trees. We have membership across five universities and have visited more than 52 schools because we want to get as many youth as possible in this movement since it is predominantly about them. We have over 50,000 members and we are still growing. 

As a young person, why does climate activism mean so much to you?

There is a lot of misinformation and lack of information about climate change which has only exacerbated the crisis. I promised myself to be as aggressive as possible in passing credible information because I do not want people to face the same problems I faced. If we are to address or mitigate the growing and worrying impacts of climate change then we need to approach the subject from a point of information and work together, because this is an issue that affects all of us. It is a message and duty I intend to carry with zeal, vigour and passion. 

It is always being said that climate change debate should involve the youth, yet most of them don’t have much interest in the subject. What is the role of young people in this agenda?

The youth form the largest percentage of the global population. Their role in climate change debate cannot be gainsaid. Their voices should be the loudest because the future that is now so much threatened by climate change is theirs. The youth must demand and put pressure on governments and world leaders to act now to save mother earth. The decision these leaders are making are not in the best interest of the youth’s future, so if the youth don’t rise up to this call, they will have no future to look forward to. 

"In Uganda, our awareness campaigns have been tough because most of the people are hearing about climate change for the first time."

What is the toughest thing about being a young climate activist?

On the face of it, we have been doing a lot of work in calling on governments and world leaders to show their commitment to addressing the climate emergencies. It is heartbreaking to see little or no effort especially from leaders in developed countries who are the greatest emitters of carbon. This as the crisis reaches epidemic proportions. 

In Uganda, our awareness campaigns have been tough because most of the people are hearing about climate change for the first time. So it is very difficult for them to understand it. Explaining to them what they need to do to lessen the impacts is a tough sell and they cannot make a connection between some of their activities like felling trees and the climate crisis. Sometimes as we carry the message to the streets motorists just ignore us and drive away. 

Another huge problem we are facing is politics. We are at the height of political campaigns and one of the key frontrunners in the presidential race is a popular young musician called Bobi Wine. Because our movement is made up of young people, we are often dismissed as supporters of Bobi Wine and it makes it hard for us to sell our message. 

Are governments and the global communities doing enough to address the climate emergency and crisis? What would you want to be done differently?

There are a few governments and leaders who have actually stepped up their efforts and are actively involved in drafting legislation and working with people to raise awareness and invest in mitigation and adaptation programmes. I applaud them. However the bulk of the leaders are still paying lip service.  If we do not clean up our emissions as a global community, our activities are going to have devastating impacts not just on us but on our future generations. The catastrophic events are already being felt. 

"We have had enough of the inaction, it is time for you world leaders and policy makers to clean up your mess and make our lives and our future count."

Most of the leaders are less concerned about the climate change debate because it hasn’t affected their countries as much as it has affected the global South. I tell them that it is just a matter of time. If we have unity of purpose we can save humanity early enough. That is what has been lacking and what we desperately need. 

As one of the young global climate change activists, what is your message to the global community on climate crisis?

The implementation of the Paris Agreement is still so snail-paced and the commitment from world leaders continue to wane. I ask our leaders, why commit to something if you cannot implement? We have had enough of the inaction, it is time for you world leaders and policy makers to clean up your mess and make our lives and our future count. 

To the youth, this is the ripe time to create the change we want in the world. We have our future to fight for. This is the time to do so. We should not let world leaders decide our future. I call on every young person in the world who cares for their planet and their future to rise up and speak out. To the global community, this planet was not given to us by our parents, it is loaned to us by our children and grandchildren. We should guard it jealously. 

Article written by:
Bildschirmfoto-2014-10-08-um-19.29.13
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Uganda
C40 World Mayors Summit 2019: Hilda Flavia Nakabuye
"There is a lot of misinformation and lack of information about climate change which has only exacerbated the crisis."
Now she has become a sworn climate change evangelist amplifying this debate from schools, in traffic, international forums and boardrooms.
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