Educating a girl cannot wait. Climate change is happening.

My name is Evelyn Acham. I am a climate activist from Uganda. I believe that girls’ education is a critical priority for fighting climate change on our planet. It lays the foundation for vibrant lives for girls, their families and additionally, it shores up resilience and equips girls to face the impacts of climate change so that they can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees and water as nature cycles change.

I am the National Coordinator and Secretary of the Rise Up Movement. I am also a member of Fridays for Future as well as an Arctic Angel with Global choices. I head the Plus One Tree Project which has a target to plant 9 million fruit trees and more in my country and has extended to other parts of Africa like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco. I am also advocating for climate change education to be added to the school curriculum and collaborating together with my fellow activists from the Rise Up Movement to extend climate education to school students, teachers and communities. I also participate in the Vash Green Schools Project headed by Vanessa Nakate promoting renewable energy in schools and collaborate with the Girl on the Move Initiative, headed by Isaac Ssentumbwe, which is aiming at empowering young women and girls.

I started activism in 2019 after being inspired by my friend and fellow activist Vanessa Nakate who was protesting individually for climate justice in front of the Ugandan parliament.

My education did not teach me about climate change, it simply brushed the surface. I started doing research about climate change and took some online courses. I discovered that climate change was not some far-off problem; it has been happening in my community and the present already is catastrophic.

We are seeing disasters everywhere we look: devastating floods are destroying homes, livelihoods and infrastructure like schools and hospitals; rising water levels are submerging businesses; prolonged droughts are drying up farms and water sources; nearby water sources have dried up and have been destroyed by floods. This is amplifying the inequality and discrimination experienced by marginalized girls and women and causing them to walk longer distances in search for food and water to feed their families.

The tropical storm, Ana, that affected the African nations of Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique towards the end of January, killed over 80 people. Thousands were displaced; classrooms and health centers were destroyed leaving thousands of students out of school and communities without access to health services. An estimated 1.7 million people in South Sudan have been displaced due to climate change, and last year close to 2.5 million in Africa faced severe food insecurity.

Girls’ education is usually disproportionately affected during and after crisis

About 39 million girls had their education disrupted by emergencies in 2015 leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and in danger of never re-enrolling in school. Parents marry off their daughters because of poverty, after which returning to education can be hard. In some cases, girls are considered an extra burden in times of crisis and they are more likely to miss classes or drop out of school.

Project drawdown, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases in the world, listed girls’ education as the fifth most impactful climate solution if we want to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees. Ignoring girls’ education leaves generations of girls less equipped to recover from crisis and increases gender inequalities that severely limit their opportunities for development. Safe-schools are needed urgently before and after emergencies. I would like to acknowledge and recognized the work that the Malala fund is doing to provide girls with 12 years of free, safe and quality education and for working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.

The GEM Report’s research on climate change education is revealing on this matter. Mapping countries on its PEER website, it shows that only 40% of national education laws and 45% education sector plans or strategies explicitly refer to climate-change education (CCE). Only just over a third of countries have a law, strategy, or plan specifically on CCE.

Adding climate education to the school curriculum and increasing funding for girls’ education is imperative. This means that more funding for girls’ education is needed so that girls and boys have equal opportunities to education.

The climate crisis is inter-sectional – one thing leads to another and it’s the same thing with the solutions. We must solve every crisis to achieve climate justice. We will not achieve climate justice without achieving gender equality, education justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice.

Education for a girl cannot wait. Climate change is not waiting for us.


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