No one is too young to make a difference.
That’s the theme behind today’s youth climate movement,
and one that 8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam has taken to heart.
Licypriya, a youth climate activist from India, has campaigned
for climate action in India for the last two years. Initially motivated by
natural disasters, like the deadly earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015, Licypriya
began her climate crusade at age 6, attending the 3rd Asia Ministerial
Conference of Disaster Risks Reduction.
“I cry when I see children losing their parents and
people becoming homeless due to the danger of disasters,” said Licypriya, in an
email to Earth Day Network. “My heart feels sorrow for people who can’t help
themselves when disaster strikes.”
In July 2018, Licypriya founded her own organization, The
Child Movement, to enact climate law in India that protects the rights of
children and creates resiliency in disaster. In February 2019, she began
striking outside of India’s parliament.
Since starting The Child Movement, Licypriya has traveled
to more than 32 countries and spoken at various conferences, including the
United Nations’ 25th Conference of Parties (COP25). That platform thrust Licypriya
into the international spotlight. It also inspired a label the outspoken 8 year
old takes issue with: “the Greta of India.”
Frustrated with the moniker, Licypriya recently took to
Twitter, writing “If you call me the Greta of India, you are not covering my
story,” referring to 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who many
consider the face of the youth climate movement.
“I think such news headlines are not fair,” said Licypriya.
“[These headlines] delete [other youth activists’] unique stories,
identit[ies], names and movements.”
Licypriya’s own focus is on her home country of India,
which is the fifth-most
vulnerable country to climate change. As the world warms, climate-fueled
extreme weather events will increase in magnitude and frequency. To fight this,
we need “change from grassroots to global levels,” said Licypriya.
Licypriya is campaigning for a nationwide climate law
that will “bring transparency and accountability to our leaders.”
“Climate change will have deep economic and social
impacts,” she said. “To this end, the government should… transform India into a
sustainable, low-carbon, high-impact economy.”
Licypriya is also focusing on education. Following Italy’s
announcement to require climate education in schools — making it the first country
to do so — Licypriya lobbied state governments in India to do the same. The
governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat have confirmed and will implement
mandatory climate education for the 2020-21 school year, making them the first
states in Asia to bring this change.
Licypriya has been awarded the World Children Peace
Prize, as well as the India Peace Prize. In 2019, Earth Day Network named her a
Rising Star for her efforts, which have a “tremendous positive impact on Earth
and are indeed shining examples for all to follow.”
“Our Rising Star initiative commends youth who have done
remarkable work to ensure a greener, cleaner and less polluted Earth — Licypriya
Kangujam aptly fits that category,” said Karuna Singh, Earth Day Network’s regional
director of Asia. “From the age of just 7 years, she has raised her voice for
action for a more sustainable environment.”
Children are the ones who will have to deal with the
disastrous effects of climate change, as the planet heats up 2–5 degrees
Celsius in the next several decades. And to Licypriya, children have the voice
and the power to stand up to do something about it.
“Age doesn’t matter to make a difference,” said Licypriya.
“I am a girl child. I am brave, strong, smart and intelligent. When children
raising their voice for their own issues which affect them… another world is
possible, and change is possible.”
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