Beatrice Phiri, 23, was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. She is a youth reporter for multiple organizations including Agents of Change Foundation and Children’s Radio Foundation. Beatrice’s weekly radio programs cover climate change and environmental sustainability and reach a cross section of her local community. Beatrice is a member of the United Nations Youth Partnership Platform in Zambia (UNYPP-z), which works hand in hand with UN agencies and the government to address chronic social problems facing youth. Check out a few highlights from our conversation with Beatrice below!!
Tell us a little about your journey – what is the cause you care most about and how did you get involved?
I am a climate change activist here in Zambia. My activism started way back in 2013 when I was fifteen years old and participated in a Unicef Zambia training on how to be a climate change activist. After the training, it was easy for me to connect what I had learned from the conference to the problems that impacted my community, most notably water scarcity. I started to put my learnings into action, working to ensure that every person realized that climate change is real.
This inspired me to begin a radio program in 2014. The goal of the program was to give young people an opportunity to talk about their passions and their communities. I then saw an ad for a radio program job designed to raise awareness on climate change. Given my background knowledge and personal passion, I decided to apply. I began doing weekly radio programs about youth in my community and to share my learnings around the importance of protecting the environment. This led me to also organize other community service projects focused on combating climate change.
How do you feel the impacts of climate change in your community?
Zambia depends on hydroelectric power, and in most communities they depend on electricity to draw their water. If we don’t have electricity, or if we experience power cuts, it means that people will not have access to water. Water scarcity is a big issue here. Most young girls and others my age will have to walk miles to go and collect water when there is no power. And on top of that, most of them need to go to collect the water and then be in school the next hour. Children are waking up at 4am, walking miles for water, and then have to be in class at 7am. They are so tired they cannot concentrate.
Because of all the litter in our communities, we’ve seen a negative impact on our dams. The rivers that support our hydroelectric power are full of litter, and so the power systems are not able to properly function. Without clean up efforts, communities can go for days without power – and for many, that means without water.
Why do you think it’s important to engage young people in this issue?
I believe that is important to engage young people in climate change conversations because we are the future leaders of today, of now. If young people aren’t involved in these conversations, who is going to be in charge of ensuring that we create a sustainable world for all?
Being a part of these kinds of discussions also give young people more power and helpful experience handling climate change issues. We can’t leave young people behind in these conversations.
We all live on a planet that needs to be cared for. Whether young or old, it is everyone’s responsibility.
If you could give SLP students and other young activists one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to lead. Look for ways to unleash your potential and uncover your talents. Overcome your fears. And remember, young people are the leaders of today.
Thank you to the International Congress of Youth Voices for helping SLP to reach Beatrice! And thank you Beatrice 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.