Two young climate activists represent Eswatini at Climate Justice School in Kenya

This winter two representatives (Lindokuhle Mamba & Bongekile Fakudze) from Hlumisa represented Eswatini at the Climate Justice School at the Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya – an event hosted by PACJA (the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance) with attendees from all across the continent. Click here to find out more and apply for next year’s event

Lindokuhle Bonga Mamba (LM) is a young, dynamic hard-worker looking to make an impact in the climate action scene in eSwatini. From Ngudzeni, in the Shiselweni region, Lindokuhle is 26 years of age and has recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences and Geography Environmental Science and Planning from the University of Eswatini. 

Bongekile Cebile Fakudze (BF) is an Economist by profession and an Environmental activist at heart. She has a BA in Social Science (majored in Economics & Math Statistics) and is intending to purse her Master’s Degree in 2023 in Environmental Economics. She is currently the Communication & Advocacy Officer at The Rock of Hope Eswatini (RoH), the programs officer in the project OUTANDPROUD and a member of Hlumisa, YOUNGO, the Yali Network and The Community Action Against Plastic Waste (CAPws).

Dane (DA): So, you went to the Climate Justice Summer School… in Winter? Tell us what that was all about.

Bongekile (BF): “We may plan but God has the last words”…or something like that! So, when the year began, I was busy travelling back and forth from Manzini to the Taiwanese Embassy working on my applications to go study in Taiwan and by mid-March everything was submitted (University application and Scholarship application). From then on, physically I was in eSwatini but mentally I was already in Taiwan hahaa!! Mentally I had already moved there. Three months went by and I was supposed to be getting a response pertaining my application but as of today I still check my emails with the hope of getting that response but we all know what that means; MY APPLICATION WAS UNSUCCESSFUL P.E.R.I.O.D.

Anyways, you know when you have been through the struggle of unemployment, for some of us things like taking up online courses and sending applications then becomes a hobby – no matter how many rejections we get, we never stop. So, that was me at the end of May sending out an application for the Nairobi Summer School and a week or two letter I got an email notifying me that I have been selected to participate in this program. June 26, I was boarding a flight at KM111 for the first time in my entire life! Anyway, to cut a long story short, two days into the program I realized that me not getting accepted to go study in Taiwan was actually a blessing in disguise. It was in the main event hall where I realized that I was where I was because I was meant to be there at that time. If I had been in Taiwan, I would have not experienced the reawaking of my purpose in life. Being in that room with young people from different cultures, races and academic/work background from all over Africa, getting to interact with them and hear them tell their stories planted a seed of hunger  from deep with me to want to do more, be involved more.

The Climate Justice Summer School was a beautiful experience that took us through a number of modules which gave as in-depth knowledge on subjects such as what climate justice is, climate change impacts on the global south, women empowerment, mitigation measures and actions, etc. We got an opportunity to visit Ngenda Ward Gatundu South, a community that practices smart farming as means to adapt to the current climate crisis. From the group discussions to group activities that were given to us during the course of the program, it gave us an opportunity to interact and share about what is happening in our respective countries pertaining climate change.

D.A. What motivated you to apply, and who covered the costs and logistics of your trip?

Lindokuhle (L.M): What motivated us to apply was a desire to better ourselves and to learn more about our passion (climate action) and to just equip ourselves with skills essential for our advocacy. Another thing was curiosity as to what the climate justice movement was about and we were excited that we could possibly get the opportunity to travel to Kenya and the fact that Busiswa just wouldn’t stop posting about it. The entire trip was covered by PACJA, from flights, accommodation, food and a daily stipend!

D.A What is climate justice anyway? What is it all about, and is it relevant for Eswatini?

L.M: Climate justice begins with recognizing how different groups are differently affected by climate change. Climate justice defines the climate crisis as a social and political problem, as well as an environmental one. It acknowledges that different communities feel the effects of the climate crisis differently, and that the responsibility for the crisis rests with some countries and companies more than others. And it understands that the lives of those already facing injustice and oppression – like the LGBTQIA+ community, women and children in developing countries – are made harder by the impacts of the climate crisis. 

B.F: I believe it is relevant for eSwatini as we are a country that is highly affected from the effects of climate change and we need the finances to cover for the loss and damages we are currently experiencing – therefore there is the need to have climate activists and advocates from the country that will be in the forefront to demand climate justice locally and globally.

D.A. What were your main takeaways from the event and the experience – for better and for worse?

L.M: My main take aways from the event were:

– it is up to us as the youth of Africa to stand up and fight for climate justice and grow the climate justice movement and our success is based on how much we work on this issue.

– making connections with people in the spaces that you want to grow in and are essential for your advocacy is key so always take the opportunity to mingle as a young person.

– climate justice is a NOW issues, there is no better time than now than to tackle the issues of the injustices that take place in our continent, countries and communities. It is an urgent matter and we must all come on board especially young people.

– I also realized how uninformed we are as the youth of Eswatini when it comes to such issues, we are not involved with the processes that make decisions for our futures 😢

D.A What are your next steps, and what would you like to do with your experience and knowledge back here in Eswatini?

B.F: Attending the Nairobi Summer School was a foot into the access of information and many more international opportunities to build relationships to collaborate with other youth worldwide as an environmental activist. Therefore, my next steps are;

  1. Disseminate & Implement – Information/knowledge and skills gained should be shared with others right? I intend to share all that I gained at the NSSCJ program so as to get the youth of Eswatini that has an interest in environmental activism but has not had the opportunity to participate in such programs to be informed on the various subjects that are covered in these programs. Secondly, I intend to implement, I believe that we need to be a youth that is different from our elders in higher places that attend conferences day in and out, come up with ideas and solutions to different problems being faced and it ends the moment they walk out of those conferences, workshops etc. I intend to work with the youth from my community and all organizations that I am affiliated with to implement the ideas we come down with. eSwatini has greatly been affected by the effects of climate change in all sectors but more especially the agricultural sector and for a country whose economy and people are highly dependent on this sector, collective action needs to be taken towards climate justice. We cannot wait for our government to come up with the mitigation strategies, actions and targets or the adaptation plans towards the climate change effects. As young people we have the ability to come up with financial mechanisms to assist our country to finance the loss and damage we are currently facing due to climate change and it is our responsibility to seek transparency and accountability in the climate finance field.
  1. To develop a research online community – my experience at the NSSCJ made me realize that as a young person representing my country at an international level, there is the need to be well informed about what is happening in my country in the environmental space. This online community will assist us as young people of eSwatini to share information on different subjects and this platform will also be of benefit to scholars as sometimes it is difficult to access certain information from government offices due to there being no records or for whatever other reason. The year 2023 has been declared as the year of the youth, therefore this is our chance as your people to be involved, have our voices heard and make the change we seek and this will start off with having a youth that is informed.  

D.A What would you like to share with any aspiring young people in Eswatini interested in engaging with climate change and climate action?

B.F: Climate change and climate action is a sphere right now that has soooooo much happening, currently all roads are leading to COP27 with climate finance being said it will be the leading topic at this forum. Therefore my advice to any aspiring young person in eSwatini;

 i) Send out that application to participate in these forums, conferences, camps etc. Trust me, being in a room with other young people from different cultures and countries and getting the opportunity to interact with them will impact you in a positive way. From my experience, it was really motivating to hear about the work that is being done by other youth from all over Africa and it motivated me to come back home and work…be involved…be part of the change I want to see. 

ii) Volunteer at national level and international level, this will help build your experience as a young person and will boost your CV. We all know how when employment opportunities are put out we find “Requirements, must have 5 years’ experience” and you find yourself wanting to scream “HOW?? WHERE?? I JUST WENT THOUGH 4 YEARS OF VARSITY HOPING THIS WILL BE THE KEY TO ME SECURING A JOB BUT NOW IM SUPPOSE TO HAVE 5 YEARS WORKING EXPERIENCE??”

If you have the passion, Hlumisa can be your home as it has offered a home to me. Be part of a community or movement and let us build bonds of solidarity that will be in the fore front in the fight for climate justice. You cannot fight the effects of climate change alone, be affiliated with a community that will present a platform for you to raise your voice and where you can have other young people that you can work with.