Kampala, Sept 19, 2019 (AFP) – When Ugandan Leah Namugerwa turned 15 last month, she decided to plant 200 trees instead of celebrating the date with a birthday party in an effort to make environmental damage visible on her home. parents.
Balancing between school, participation in protests and speeches offered in regional capitals calling for action to save the planet, she belongs to a generation of young people inspired by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg.
"If adults don't want to take the lead, then me and other children will do so. Why should I keep looking while environmental injustices happen before my eyes?" Namugerwa wondered in Kigali, Rwanda's capital, last week. , standing up for her response to the climate emergency.
Back in Kampala, she told AFP that she had the idea of making weekly school strikes after becoming aware of her government's "inaction" on environmental issues, and discovering Thunberg's protests in front of the Swedish Parliament, which led to a world youth movement.
Namugerwa is part of the group of activists of the Fridays for the Future movement to receive this week's Amnesty International human rights award for their work.
She led a campaign to demand from Kampala the implementation of a restriction on plastic bags and sounded the warning about massive deforestation as well as the prolonged and flooded droughts attributed to climate change.
"What made me worry and get involved in this campaign was climate change and its effects on our lives, like the high temperatures we experience today like never before, the floods we have suffered … the diseases that spread," he added.
She says young people "need to speak up".
"If we do not, our future will not be guaranteed. Today's leaders will be gone, but we will be left to suffer the consequences of their inactions," he amended.
– A real danger – The first time she organized a protest calling for action on the weather was on a Friday of February this year, alone, in a suburb of Kampala.
"I felt like I was doing the right thing and the right way, but most people, including some members of my family, thought it was weird. They looked at me, shaking their heads in disbelief as I displayed my posters," he recalled.
Now, a group of teenagers have joined her weekly and 'skip class' to attend the strikes on Fridays.
"Some people have criticized me. They say that at my age I should be in class on Fridays, not on the streets doing strikes. Glad my parents supported me. They encouraged me."
Namugerwa – who will take part in coordinated climate protests around the world on Friday – said she was excited by the growing interest in environmental issues in Uganda.
"Climate change issues are not being prioritized as they deserve … But the debate is growing with our campaign," he continued.
Another teenager who joined the strikes, Jerome Mukasa, also 15, said Namugerwa opened the eyes of young Ugandans to environmental crises in his country.
"Before, the message about climate and the environment was not clear to some of us, but Lea has simplified for us that this is real and a danger to us all," he concluded.
str-fb / np / cw / mvv