Girls are leading climate activism in South Africa

Photo: (c) Xoli Fuyani

In 2021, Xoli Fuyani started a non-profit organisation called Black Girls Rising in South Africa. The organisation trains girls between 12 and 18 to lead climate action within their communities.

Fuyani helped with the organisation of South Africa’s first climate march. Under her guidance then-11-year-old Yola Mgogwana delivered her first public speech in 2019 in front of 2,000 fellow young people.  The march went viral on social media and she has now become one of the most influential voices for climate activism in South Africa.

Mgogwana grew up in an informal settlement in called Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Her family was directly affected by the infamous Cape Town drought in 2018 because when the communal tap that her family shared with another 55 families others ran dry, they couldn’t afford to buy water in the shops. This was a huge wake up call for her and she decided she needed to speak up for her community.

The Rising in Leadership Fellowship is part of the organisation which focuses on equipping the girls with practical skills to lead climate action within their communities. There are currently 30 girls enrolled. Fuyani decided to focus is mainly on girls because she has seen how climate change impacts women and girls differently. Vulnerable groups like women are least informed about climate change. Less than half of the women in South Africa are aware of climate change, compared to 53% of men. 

The training is split into 5 modules and gets more intense as the girls move up the levels. The girls are equipped with leadership and advocacy skills in the second level. Practical skills are taught in level 3 and 4 and the girls are given the autonomy to lead campaigns based on their interests. Some of the campaigns have been about clean air others are food security campaigns, where the girls lead by example and grow vegetables.

The girls are matched with organisations to expand their advocacy, this happens at the last level of the fellowship. Mgogwana, is now 15 and has a dream of becoming an environmental lawyer so she’s aligning her goal by currently  working as a young advisor with Child Rights International Network.

Photo: (c) Xoli Fuyani


Author: Sylvia Jacobs

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