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.

South Africa, Now is not the Time to Lose Momentum

On 2 September, South Africa exploded. She cried out in outrage. The bombardment of kidnap, rape and murder headlines in the last months escalated with the rape and death of Uyinene Mrwetyana. The news left our country both angry and heartbroken.

Since then, the heaviness in the hearts of many women (and men) has been tangible. The horrendous rape and murder of this young woman sparked a nationwide movement of solidarity and commitment to ending gender-based violence.

Uyinene had been missing for a number of days. On 2 September, it was discovered that she had been brutally raped and murdered while collecting a package from the post office in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight. The story was reported alongside headlines filled with women and children who had been taken, killed, and raped. It sent a surge of sadness and anger throughout our beloved country. This is not okay.

Enough is enough.

It is not okay that a visit to the post office ends in the loss of an innocent life.

It’s not ok that women live in constant fear when going through the ordinary tasks of daily life.

It is not okay that this has been happening for so long without enough coverage because it has become so normalised.

It’s not okay that we are rendered powerless and voiceless.

I am angry. I am tired. But most of all, I am hurting.

I am hurting for all the women, and I am hurting for my country. I am hurting for the inherent hate and disregard for fellow humans.

Photo by Kyle Kingsley

We need change.

The rate of gender-based violence (which includes domestic violence) in South Africa is said to be one of the highest in the world. This alone should alert us to the necessity and urgency of action. Action by government, by men, by us; action by the people. I believe that policy change, stricter law enforcement, government reform and community intervention are all required. There is no question about this.

But in the same breath, I believe that it is ultimately up to us, the people of South Africa, to educate ourselves, change our behaviour and shift our mindsets. Then, and only then, will real lasting change be possible. Education, awareness and intervention need to be available and accessible for everyone. Privileged or not.

This is not a problem for any one class, gender or social group. This is a human problem.

Reform is needed. Change in behaviour backed up by actionable steps is needed. But for lasting change, minds and hearts need to be affected and moved. We should not lower ourselves to perpetuating the same shame cycle that is intended to bind us by staying silent. When we stand united and raise our voices, we are stronger.

Men need to be better. Men CAN be better. Overwhelmingly, men are the perpetrators of gender-based violence. It is time to put aside shaming and call men to join us in action. Justice needs to be served, and that means expecting more from the men of our country and holding them accountable.

Photo by Kyle Kingsley

We can’t lose momentum.

I choose to believe in the restoration of our country. And we are our country. All of us, the people. Women and men. And that means I choose to believe in the restoration of the people of South Africa.

This will not be a battle easily won, yet to bring peace and relief to the women of South Africa who are hurting and dying, we will have to come together. Now is not the time to be divided. It is the time to stand in unity. Publicly, privately, in our homes, in our friendship circles, in our relationships.

We are still blaming and shaming. Yes, we are angry. I am furious. But we must take action. I intend to. This is mourning and grief, but breakthrough comes from laying down oppressive and hateful mindsets. It will be uncomfortable; growth always is.

We must choose to look forward and to see that men can be a restorative power instead of a problem.

The pain brought upon women by gender-based violence has had a devastating effect on South Africa. There is no excuse for this behaviour. I am appealing to us, my bruised self included, to take our hurt, anger and frustration and put it into action. Let us not grow weary; let us not forget.

Our anger at these injustices is only as good as the action birthed from it. Hate and animosity cannot fix the problems and injustices that are at the root of gender-based violence. But unrelentless hope and belief, along with intentional action, can.

Five Feminist Resolutions for 2017

2017 has already proven to be a tough year for feminists. And we can expect to be tried and tested for the many months to come. As we look to the coming battles, here are five feminist New Year’s resolutions:

1. Show up

After more than four million feminists showed up for the Women’s March on Washington and the 300+ sister marches globally, it is safe to say we are getting good at this one. But, it is crucial we continue to show up for what we believe in. Whether that be to continue marching, or to meet other feminists in your city, or to support feminist films, books, and concerts. While social media is an incredibly powerful tool to link the global community, cultivating a physical community is equally important and special. In 2017, let’s make sure we are there for our fellow females, and remember that together we are stronger.

2. Volunteer

Alongside showing up for events, protests, and meet-ups, we must continue to support the incredible work of Planned Parenthood, ACLU, National Organization for Women, and even Girls’ Globe. You can make a difference with your money, time, or simply advocating for an organization in your own network. Many of these organizations will come under threat over the course of the Trump Administration and we cannot let that happen. Whatever level of participation you can commit to helps, and a little empathy and altruism never hurt anybody.

3. Speak up

Silence is acceptance. And if there was ever a time we needed to elevate women’s voices, it’s now. Contrary to what some have said, words do matter. And words have impact. If we collectively speak up about what we believe in, what we value, and what is not okay to us, we will be heard. It is so easy to accept and internalize the patriarchy that surrounds us, but we cannot let it get us down. We can be empowered by our collective experiences and rather than commiserate, we can rise up. With every social media post, face-to-face conversation, video on Million Women’s Voices, and blog post written we will slowly, but surely dismantle the patriarchy.

4. Educate

I do not know everything. You do not know everything. No one knows everything. But to be an effective ally we must know the facts. In the spirit of intersectionality, we must remember that women’s rights, our legal system, our criminal justice system, our environment, and our public policies are all connected. While you certainly do not have to fight for every issue, knowing the facts is a solid step to continuing effective advocacy.   While certain pieces of the media have simply disregarded the truth as “alternative facts,” it is important to know why we fight, how we fight, and the statistics behind it. With the advent of fake news and spun falsehoods in our social media sphere, it can be easy to end up in a Facebook feud over what is true.

5. Self care

Being a wild feminist in 2017 will not be easy and in fighting all our fights, remember to take care of yourself. Fighting the patriarchy is a lifelong battle, and it does the movement no good for you to burn out. So when you’re feeling down, take a bubble bath, cuddle with your kitten, pop on a feminist film on Netflix. Staying motivated, passionate, and driven is exhausting, so after a long day subverting patriarchal paradigms, treat yourself.

Combating Hopelessness

Recently, I have engaged in discussions on Facebook and Twitter about sexual violence in conflicts. Through my time as a women’s advocate, I have noticed that this topic, specifically, stirs a lot of feelings in people. And mostly it creates HOPELESSNESS.

With this post I would like to highlight that this is not a hopeless cause, and that there are several movements and organizations creating change today. Here are three steps that I think are essential for us to move away from hopelessness:

  1. EDUCATE. To hear about the children and women being raped in conflict and post-conflict areas around the world is horrifying. Without having the knowledge of what it is about, why it happens, that it is actually a strategic weapon of war, and what is being done, hearing about it may just lead to hopelessness. Therefore, I believe education and raising awareness is the first step towards creating a change. Do you want to learn more? Read about conflict related sexual violence on UN Women’s website or at the Sexual Violence Research Initiative website.
  2. SUPPORT. There are several organizations working for empowering women in conflict, including through physical and psychological rehabilitation, vocational training and including women in peace processes. Therefore, women can become a driving force of change in these communities. Further, many organizations are working to create a justice system that acknowledges these crimes and put perpetrators behind bars. This is essential for the patterns of sexual violence to change. Once it is criminalized, the norms will change, and women will not become victims of stigmatization. Here are three global movements I think you should join: SAY NO UNiTE to end violence against women, Stop Rape Now and V-Day. And these are some organizations you can support: UN Women, Women for Women International, Kvinna till Kvinna, Global Fund for Women, and the Enough Project.
  3. STAND TOGETHER. As citizens, as consumers, as members of movements, we can stand together and have a strong voice to creating a change. Join a local advocacy group and join online discussions on how we best can put our leaders and companies accountable. Follow the organizations mentioned above on Twitter and Facebook, and spread the word.

The featured image and video for this post is taken from Stop Rape Now.