Is the Climate Movement too White?

Extreme climate disasters affect people around the world, from wildfires in Australia to floods in the Philippines and East Africa. Most people attribute this to climate change – as long as they’re not climate deniers. And at the forefront of the fight against climate change are young women.

The Face of a Movement

Greta Thunberg is the most recognizable face in the climate movement. She started the School Strike for Climate and was named Time’s Person of the Year for 2019.

Thunberg also happens to be a white girl from Sweden, whose mother is an opera singer and father an actor. In no way am I discrediting the important work she has been doing. I am sure it is not easy being a teenager, with Asperger’s, standing up to the patriarchal establishment. However, I cannot help but notice the way white environmental activists seem to get more media coverage than those who are not white.

Take the example of Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, who was cropped out of this photo by the Associated Press.



This is someone who represents a community, a country, a whole continent. Yet someone else decided that her presence is irrelevant.

Then there is 8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam, who wants the media to stop calling her ‘Greta of India’. It’s another case of the media discrediting and disregarding voices from continents other than Europe.


Greta Thunberg has recognised her white privilege and called on the media to tell the stories of activists from around the world. Through Twitter, it seems that she supports her fellow activists who are not white.


Each of these girls has had to overcome obstacles. Trump told Greta to chill and go watch a movie. Licypriya is only 8 years old and had to drop out of school. Vanessa Nakate is now known as the ‘cropped out activist’, something she didn’t want and couldn’t have anticipated.

Is Intersectionality Possible?

I believe it is important to highlight the work of black and brown girls in the climate change movement. They have to endure multiple forms of discrimination in society. But intersectionality is not as simple as suddenly featuring more minorities in the media so that the aesthetics do not look so bad. It’s about listening to activists’ concerns and giving diverse voices the opportunity to lead as well. This counts for all movements. Intersectionality is essential if we want a cause to be effective.

I assume that most people would agree that climate change is not solely a white or middle-class issue. The challenge is how to include everyone so that the movement can be effective in creating change. But as long as we live in a racist, sexist and classist society, I think we will need a different, more inclusive approach to tackling the global threat of climate change.

Girl Power is a Super Power

Cleo Wade illustrated by Martine Beetz for Girls' Globe

“My favourite thing about Girl Power is that over time it turns into Woman Power”
– Cleo Wade


As a child, everything seems possible. People say that children don’t lie, that they are pure and innocent. Not everyone agrees that their ideas are brilliant, or that their opinions are important.

Sadly, the gap between the presumed ‘importance’ of what men say and what women say is still significant. I believe this gap is the result of a system that limits girls’ expression in favour of boys’. The truth, of course, is that both are equally important and valuable.

There are moments when the craziest ideas turn out to be the best ideas. It is time we start to realise that the best ideas do not always come from the most experienced adults. Sometimes great ideas come from great little people. And girls’ voices should not be underestimated.

These 4 Girls Embody ‘Girl Power’

Samantha Smith (1972 – 1985) was an American peace activist. She was named ‘America’s Youngest Ambassador’ after she wrote a letter to the leader of the former Soviet Union, Yury Andropov, in 1982. Smith was worried about a nuclear war, and so she wrote to Andropov to ask him what he would do to prevent it.

Andropov answered her letter with a commitment not to use nuclear weapons. He recognized Samantha’s courage and invited her to the URSS. In an innocent but brilliant proposition, she suggested that the granddaughters of US and Soviet leaders visit each other’s countries once a year to help to guarantee peace.

Illustrations by Martine Beetz for Girls’ Globe

Malala Yousafzai is a young Pakistani activist. When she was just 15-years-old she spoke up for girls’ right to education after it was forbidden under Taliban rule. This made her a target, and she was shot in 2012.

As a result of her continued activism for girls’ education, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. She is determined to achieve every girl’s right to go to school through Malala Fund.

Greta Thunberg, aged 16, understands the importance of environmental issues better than most adults. Last year, she sat down in protest in front of the Swedish parliament. Greta went beyond “what would happen if…” and took action, inspiring the whole world to follow her lead. As a direct result of Greta’s boldness, more and more people are paying attention to climate change.

The bottom line is, we cannot underestimate the power of a single action.

When 9-year-old Riley Morrison wanted to own a particular pair of sneakers, she found there weren’t any in the girls section of the website – only in the boys. Riley wrote a letter to Stephen Curry, the professional basketball player, which soon went viral. She not only received a pair of the Curry 5s she’d wanted so badly, but also collaborated with Curry to design a new pair.

Riley’s goal was to change a small but significant fact – sport sneakers are not designed for girls.

Young girls are taking the future into their own hands and carving a path for more equal opportunities. Children often have a clear idea of how things could, and should, be.

The way children look at the world is simple and unique.

The same imagination and innocence that makes adults underestimate children is, in fact, their power. It is important to pay attention to the future generations that will one day lead our world.

Girls with great ideas will create a great world if we give them the chance to do so.

EDUCATION: A Girl's Human Right

EDUCATION

Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

Article 26.1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Although education is a human right. Inequality in access to education is a fact around the world. 61 million primary school aged teens are currently not enrolled in school, and almost half of these adolescents will never have the chance to get an education. Girls, in many parts of the world, are less likely than boys to go to school. The gender divide in education is high in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (UNICEF).

What we know is that education is essential to beat poverty. Education gives girls skills and information that enhances their ability to provide for their families in the future. An educated girl has a greater chance of living a healthy life and ensuring her children and families live a healthier life. She would also have the possibility to contribute to a strengthened workforce in her society and human capital in her country, leading to positive developmental outcomes for her nation as a whole.

Yet, although we can discuss the many benefits of girls receiving an education, there are several barriers standing in the way for girls to go to school. Below, I will mention a few. You can also check out our infographic.

Child marriage

One in every four girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the developing world (excluding China) is currently married!

The World Health Organization estimates that 39 thousand child marriages occur every single day and that 14 million girls get married every year.

Girls who are married off before the age of 18 are seen as child brides. They are more likely to drop out of school and not have the chance to continue an education. Child marriage is a grave human rights violation in itself, that may include violence, rape, heavy household work and early pregnancies. As child marriage is often associated with a girl’s discontinuation of education, it becomes a human rights violation that limits a girl’s ability to further develop her skills for the future. See Girls’ Globe blogger Diane Fender’s post on Child Marriage

Pregnancy

In Africa, complications related to pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death among adolescent girls (15-19 years old).

Child marriage often leads to early child-bearing, often before the girl’s body is fully ready to carry and deliver a baby. Girls under the age of 15 have a significant higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than women in their twenties. When a girl becomes pregnant her life changes and as she has a baby, her possibility to continue her education is minimal.

Sanitation

In many parts of the world girls drop out of school when they get their periods as they do not have access to clean water, sanitation or hygiene.

How can such a natural thing as having your period stop you from attending school? See Girls’ Globe blogger Elisabeth Epstein’s post on Menstruation, Girls’ Globe blogger Jordan Teague’s post on WASH and HEEALS India’s post on sanitation and education.

Violence

Over 150 million girls under the age of eighteen have experienced some form of sexual violence.

Girls face a daily battle of exposure to extreme violence and discrimination. Sexual violence, teasing, harassment and threats is a common issue in schools for many girls, hindering them from getting an education. For many girls, their first sexual experience is through rape and abuse. Violence remains a barrier for girls receiving an adequate opportunity for education.

There are several more barriers that stand in the way for girls access to an education, such as poverty, high school fees, gender discrimination, social norms, distance to the school, standard of education and access to teachers. What we know for sure is that girls have the right to an education, and it is our responsibility to make sure that they do have access to a safe environment where they can learn, grow and develop. Education is key for the prevention of child marriage and early pregnancy.

What do you think stands in the way for girls’ access to education?

Tweet us @girlsglobe, using #girlseducation.

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