By Acham Moureen

18th /01/2022

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. It poses threats to all aspects of life from gender , health, safety to national and global stability of millions of people across the globe. With the just concluded COP27 climate negotiations and it’s cover text on loss and damage fund which leaves activists with uncertainty on when the fund will be put in the basket, activists are back into action for the year 2023.

On the 12th, January 2023, the Riseupmovt with the leadership of Vanessa Nakate hosted a workshop called “The Earthworkshop” in the capital, Kampala. The workshop brought together youth activists from various movements and organizations across Uganda as they gathered to talk about this planet we call home.

In her opening remarks, climate justice activist, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Founder, Riseupmovt reminded fellow youths about their role and responsibility to protect the planet if they’re to shape the future of the present generation and generations to come.

“It’s our responsibility to take care of our planet Earth”

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Founder, Riseupmovt Vanessa giving her opening remarks at the Earth workshop.

There’s no doubt that the loaming global climate crisis poses disparate social economic and environmental challenges as it manifests in the tropics. Youth activists have condemned the inaction of world leaders and Global North economies for failing to solve a crisis they caused. It remains upon this generation to take up the huge responsibility of determining the future of a planet already affected by climate change.

In her remarks, Vanessa Nakate also stated that the actions and decisions made now will determine the future tomorrow, the future of a generation already victims of the climate crisis they didn’t participate in causing.

“The actions we take now will determine the fate of millions of children or rather, the fate of every child alive today, and every child yet to be born”

The interconnection between climate change and gender inequality was among the prevalent issues rised in the discussions. The climate crisis is not gender neutral. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change which amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to their livelihoods, health and safety. In her submission, climate and gender justice activist Joan Kembabazi shared her knowledge and experience of how climate change affects girls and women. In her submission, Joan says that the climate crisis is a girls and women’s rights issue. There cannot be climate justice without gender justice, Joan said.

She further told the audience how girls and women face the the brutal impacts of survival in areas affected by the climate crisis. In vulnerable communities especially areas hit by prolonged drought, girls and women face the burden of moving long distances to obtain water which makes them vulnerable to sexual assault.

Joan told The MAPA Post that in vulnerable communities, girls search for water for consumption and during dry spells, this in turn jeopardizes their education.

“ To me the climate crisis leads to an increase in child brides, the occurrence of climate disasters means destruction of farmlands that that families depend on, the families opt to sell out their daughters into marriage in exchange of bride price and also reduce on the economic pressure as girls are seen as a burden during the times of a crisis”

Joan Kembabazi & Founder, GUFASHA Foundation speaking to The audience at the Earth workshop

She further narrated her sad and touching story of how she lost a friend into child marriage at the age of 13 years as her family’s farm land was destroyed by the prolonged drought and they opted to marry her in exchange for bride price.

Panelists at the Earth workshop

“In periods of prolonged floods, infrastructure like schools and roads are destroyed making girls more vulnerable to dropping out of school. The question remains, “ How best can we help girls and women adopt and survive during climate disaster outbreak”

With Joan’s sad and touching story, climate change remains one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st Century. It’s impacts vary among regions, generations and ages. According to the findings of the IPCC, it’s evident that people who are already vulnerable and marginalized will experience the greatest impacts. It’s also estimated that 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women, according to the UN environment report. When women are displaced , they are at a greater risk of violence, including sexual violence.

“Loss and damage affects all of us and I’m glad that something came out of COP27 but we must make leaders deliver on their promises”

In a broad conversation on women and loss and damage, gender and children’s rights activist Darren Namatovu emphasized the need for loss and damage fund to be provided to support the most vulnerable groups especially women and children. She says that the loss and damage fund shouldn’t just be an empty basket but rather a one great step to solve the atrocities already caused by the climate crisis. Darren hopes that the most affected will get a more fair share.

“ Loss and damage affects all of us and I’m glad that something came out of COP27 but we must have leaders deliver on their promises” says, Darren.

At the Earth workshop, panelists and youth voices present that day called for urgent climate action and implementation of the already available solutions to the crisis. Speaking on the panel, climate activist and Co-founder, and Director @G4ClimateAction Payo Pius Ddumba Kizzaremarkably said,

“Young people are the engines of climate action but the space for young people is very small”

Climate and environmental activist Robert Turykira called for the need for a strong legal and policy framework to access funding.

Climate change issues are time bound and sweeping away the local people. Robert, said.

Robert Turykira at the center addressing the audience at the Earth workshop.

Many speeches were delivered at the Riseupmovt Earth workshop and throughout all the speeches was the urgent call for Climate action and implementation of the solutions required to combat the crisis. The speakers reminded their audience that going forward climate justice cannot be achieved without gender equality, that’s why we need inclusion of girls and women’s voices in all aspects and areas of the fight for climate justice.

They urged the audience the need for education and empowerment of girls and women on the importance of there voices and actions in this climate warfare. And the role the youth must play to hold leaders accountable and to ensure that leaders deliver their promises.

Towards the end of the earth workshop, there was airing of the Riseupmovt documentary on loss and damage and the ongoing EACOP project.

Airing of the EACOP documentary

There was silence and emotional feelings in the room as the audience listened to the sad and touching testimonies of the locals giving their stories and how they are affected by the project. The locals elaborated on how they are being displaced from their cultural heritage, the compensation process which is unfair, and the threat to their human survival. They live in fear, one of them emphasized. And they are uncertain about the future of their children tomorrow. The voices in the documentary stated that the EACOP project is a danger to the environment, the climate and the people in the area.

However, the documentary called for mixed reactions from the audience with the pro-EACOP supporters saying that the project is good for the development of the country and Uganda should be left to invest in it’s oil resource which will create employment opportunities for millions of Ugandans and East Africans. They criticized the anti-EACOP campaigners for hating their country and supporting the agenda of European imperialists. Nevertheless, a certain section of the pro-EACOP supporters emphasized the need for more workshops and discussions to better understand the struggle of the STOP EACOP campaigners. One of them said that the problem could be in our differences and deafness to listen and understand what the anti-EACOP campaigners are saying.

On the other hand, reacting to the documentary, the anti-EACOP campaigners stated that the oil pipeline is a symbol of exploration and environmental destruction. It will not solve the economic challenges of the country because other similar investment projects in past have failed to solve Uganda’s economic challenges due to bad leadership. The anti-EACOP campaigners called for the phasing out of fossil fuels. With some saying that fossil fuels have been used to finance wars and invasion of other countries by the most powerful countries. They said that Uganda can do well with a just transition.