Joshua Borokinni, a 20 year old activist from Lagos, Nigeria shares his inspiring work as a climate activist and social innovator. Joshua is the founder of Borokinni Joshua Initiative, an organization that focuses on social innovation, youth engagement, sustainable development goal advocacy, and climate journalism. In our conversation, we spoke about the dedication it takes to create sustainable change and the importance of engaging all stakeholders (especially other young people!) in your work. Thank you Joshua for taking the time to share your story with the SLP community!
Tell us a little about your journey – what is the cause you care most about and how did you get involved?
Climate change is having a high impact on Africans more than any other people in the world. In Zimbabwe for example, despite the surge of the coronavirus, people are experiencing floods, food insecurity and a political Crisis all at the same. Young people will inherit these issues. So, we need to be a part of addressing them, and that starts now.
I started climate activism in 2017, but I have always been asking questions, challenging authorities and pushing for change, for as long as I can remember, I crave(d) deeply for justice and equity. I would attribute these values, in part, to my childhood. I grew up fascinated about history, politics, and science, how things work and why.
Despite holding leadership positions in elementary and high school, it was not until I lost a friend to flooding, that I decided to let my voice out and become a larger part of the public conversation.
I set out on a journey to make people aware of climate change issues and hold the government and other non-state stakeholders accountable for green policies. I was in University at the time. I organized small meet-ups with friends, moved up to 20 person gatherings and then, full-fledged conferences of up to 500 persons, preaching solutions and encouraging young people to get involved in the fight for a better system, one that is just and equitable, one that leaves no one behind, including the planet. I was also involved in politics and documented my stories and ideologies in a book.
How did that experience influence the work you do today?
A whole lot. My friend’s death played a major role in my climate activism. My response to his death was locking myself up, after days of mourning, and studying all I could lay my hands on about natural disasters, climate change, and how I can be of help.
Fast forward to today, I am helping other young people find their voice, question social constructs, and push for the world they desire. Early this year, I launched LearnBlue (a Gen Z led and focused non-profit dedicated to helping people born after 1996 find their place in the conversation about reaching the Sustainable Development Goals) with a couple of friends, serving as the head of research and policy design.
Young people need to understand that we can work together towards a world of justice. Towards a world without poverty. Towards a world where people of color, women and men, have access to the same opportunities. These are issues that impact the whole world, but I’m particularly passionate about Africa. I want to see Africa reach our full potential, because right now we are limiting our potential. That experience did not just leave me with a lifelong dedication to the fight for a safer planet, it transformed my values, ethics and how I saw myself in the larger society – as an agent of change.
These are big ideas! Can you tell us about how you take these ideas and turn them into action?
For me, it is more about doing than saying, real change comes with action. I know that sometimes it can be overwhelming or even seem bigger than I can accomplish. What I do in this case is: break down the project to smaller bits, fit them into simple tasks, find a team and delegate duties where necessary. I also understand that I cannot fight for real change in isolation, so I am huge on collaboration, partnerships and collective effort. Of recent, I joined other young climate activists in a policy conversation with organizers of the COP26 and we shared why these issues were so important to us. The youth perspective is critical in the climate conversation and on a larger scale, the quest for sustainable development and global solidarity.
During the #ForACleanerLagos campaign, it took the power of young people on social media to call for action and initiate the much needed waste management review. The campaign went as far as moving these young people from their keypads to the dump site, clearing off a 20 ton plastic waste settlement. Another one was the Naija Goes Vegan nationwide outreach, where we went from city to city, organizing events and starting conversations about the sustainability of food production and consumption in Nigeria, it happens to be a big contributor to climate change. We brought everyone (private sector, the government, young people, academia, religious institutions, etc) together and had keynotes, a panel styled debate, and a fire chat involving the participants. We also reached a resolution to keep raising awareness about this issue and made key recommendations for key stakeholders on this subject.
Why is it so important for young people to get involved in social change?
As young people, we need to ask ourselves, what kind of world are we going to live in when we are old? What kind of world are we going to leave for our kids? We will be the ones in power, dealing with these issues, in the next 10, 20, 30 years. The time to address them is now. Young people make up 60% of the world’s population. Policy needs to be made with us in mind. Young people need to have a voice in decision making.
I’m hoping that young people in America and across the world can learn from my story and push forward to create the world we deserve.
If you could give SLP students and other young activists one piece of advice, what would it be?
There is no perfect time to start, but if there is: the time is now. To get started, develop a strong understanding about the problem or issue you want to work on. What is the problem? What are potential solutions? What organizations are already working on this issue and how can you get involved? Start out by identifying who are the stakeholders in an issue and engage with them however you can. It’s also important to learn about the people you are serving, and make sure they are an essential part of your project. Their voices matter the most.
Greta Thunburg redefined what we used to know as activism. Go all out, get the attention you deserve, and use it to bring your conversation to the frontlines.
Thank you to the International Congress of Youth Voices for helping SLP to reach Jalen! And thank you Jalen for sharing your story.
The International Congress of Youth Voices unites students, ages 16 to 20, from around the world to learn with and from accomplished writers, activists, and elected officials. Founded by author Dave Eggers (co-founder of 826 National) and nonprofit leader Amanda Uhle, the inaugural event took place August 3, 4, and 5, 2018, in San Francisco. Youth delegates came to us from the United States, Iraq, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Syria, Ireland, Australia, Iceland, Burundi, Honduras, Cuba, Denmark, Venezuela, Zambia, and Nepal.
Politics of the world affect young people as much as anyone else, and they have little to no voice as major decisions are made. The Congress was founded as a means to amplify their ideas and energy and to unite young people for a weekend of collaboration. Student delegates are chosen based on their commitment to leadership and social justice and their passion and eloquence as writers. The event is designed to provide a path to leadership for all delegates and represents a continuum from students who have exhibited potential in local writing and tutoring programs to writers and activists who have already made notable achievements at a very young age.