Eswatini at COP26 – Wetive’s long road to Glasgow Pt. I

Part I of a blog by Wetive Dlamini – chairperson of Hlumisa (the Eswatini Youth Climate Forum). Read about her story in overcoming the odds in becoming a youth representative for Eswatini at the recent COP26 summit. This article is part of our series focusing on the COP26 global climate summit in the UK

When I’m gone remember me for being resilient – and if you still don’t believe in God when you are done reading this then I’m sorry I don’t know if there’s hope for you. LOL.

So, my journey actually began on the 8th of September when I received an email from Global Affairs Units inviting me to COY16 (Conference of Youth) as an Eswatini Youth delegate. This event is basically a mini COP26, this is where youth from all over the world come together to prepare a global youth statement that will be presented at COP26 in representation of youth voices. One of the Eswatini coordinators had been mentioning it, so I took an interest, followed it and applied – ultimately contributing to Eswatini’s Youth Statement.

I considered this upcoming opportunity my first independent international trip as my previous trip to California was organised and paid for by the Enactus office. This time I had to prepare myself and ensure I secured a vaccination, funding, a visa and so forth. Bear in mind that I am currently unemployed, which meant I needed to secure external funding to cover all the above-mentioned expenses.

The good thing about me is that I am an initiator. The moment I realised what I had and didn’t have, I started looking for a means, having to ask around for what I could. Every time I had hope and saw things coming together there would just be another setback. I don’t know how many times I kept on closing this door but it kept on opening again. The process was mentally draining, I had already cried a couple of times and vividly remember spending an entire day in bed because it was a lot to deal with. I just wanted it to end, so that I could pick myself up and carry on.

Once the country was removed from the red list, I had one less worry but still awaited a COP badge (which is basically a gate key to the conference). So, getting a COP badge would mean I could spend three weeks in Glasgow, the first week for COY16 then the remaining two weeks for COP26. I soon got connected to Eswatini’s focal person who was meant to assist me in getting the COP badge, however that process was also delayed because I wasn’t getting any luck with funding.

That very evening, Youngo opened a competition to win a fully sponsored trip, all we had to do was write and share about our experience on COY16. Although I entered the competition with a doubtful heart, I still took a leap of faith. I had nothing to lose. Although I didn’t win the competition, a few days later I was nominated by Hlumisa to receive funding through the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs.  This news came a week before COY16 kicked off. Now remember I don’t have anything… I’m just vaccinated with an international passport. 

Wetive in Pretoria before managing to leave to Glasgow

According to what was communicated we were supposed to travel on the 3rd November which fell on a Wednesday. So now the plan was to travel to Pretoria on Tuesday, and hopefully get a visa the next morning. I left that Tuesday morning but hadn’t secured accommodation because unfortunately my mentor had lost his phone so I couldn’t communicate with him. Earlier in September, I had asked him to accommodate me when I get to Pretoria while preparing for a visa and he had agreed. I made means to get to him and SURPRISE there I was with my luggage at his office reception. Him and his family were so kind and managed to book me into a room for 2 days because UNECA decided to communicate on Wednesday evening that we would be leaving on Friday.

I knew I had to leave on Thursday, I had to make sure I did because for them my presence was an unplanned expense. My PCR expired, so now I had to get to Johannesburg and on that morning, I had E70 left. I had to choose between breakfast and an uber to SAYM (mentor’s office). He managed to give me some money to Jozi but we didn’t know it wasn’t enough to get me to OR Tambo, I realised too late. I ended up at Park Station (the scariest place in Jozi), fortunately, I got picked up by Ncamiso Ngcamphalala who is a friend and colleague travelling to COP as well. Just before he arrived, I realised I was lost. I started crying and praying and fortunately a shopkeeper was kind enough to keep me in his shop and allow me to use his phone.

We boarded our flight at 9:30 pm on Friday, and that was the first time I felt like I could breathe.   We connected flights and it was a beautiful journey with great company and a good book. We were welcomed by Mr Mamba in Glasgow who accommodated me later that night. I woke up with a heavy heart the next morning and I started crying because I remembered I was in a foreign country and I had nothing and there was nothing I could do about it. I started praying and singing and I told God he didn’t bring me this far to leave me here.

Wetive and Ncamiso at COP 26

Ncamiso came to the rescue again and gave me £40, so at least I knew I had travelling fare. When I got there, I met an angel in the form of Mrs Thuli Gina, she immediately took care of me, she accommodated me, she fed me, she went all out, literally. This is when I saw God show off for me, for some reason we had Hlengiwe Dlamini coordinate our accommodation with Emaswati living in Glasgow and that worked perfectly well for me. These two women didn’t end there, when I communicated that UNECA had not yet given us our DSA (daily subsistence allowance) they took over as parents. They spoke to the relevant people and I was loaned some pounds which allowed me to pay for my expenses whilst in Glasgow.

At some point I got sick, there were a lot of tears shed and debts acquired. At my age I had a debt close to E15,000 hanging over my head, although UNECA was the one paying for it. It is not a nice thing to worry about. I traveled back home and UNECA still hadn’t sent anything so I arrived home with new debts.

This trip was nothing close to easy but things came together for me. A GOD ORCHESTRATED TRIP, that’s what I call it. I was challenged in all ways possible, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, physically, mentally and financially. Mrs Gina would say it must be nice to be young and able to take such risks, I would just chuckle and in my heart respond, it only took leaps of faith, it had nothing to do with my age but everything with my beliefs. My belief in God, in Purpose and belief in WETIVE. 

Read Part II of Wetive’s story here.