Promoting environmental advocacy: Empowering children to be the torch bearers


02 March 2023

Compiled by Tafadzwa Mvududu

While in Binga supporting the establishment of environmental clubs in school, I met two boys who were bathing at the hot springs. They saw me coming and shouted “Kune vanhu varikugeza musasvike padhuze” (we are bathing please don’t come near us). This is a public space where so many people, including tourists visit almost every time and these young boys are bare and bathing in the open. Do they enjoy bathing in a public space? Are they comfortable bathing there? These were the questions that lingered in my mind. I waited patiently for them to finish bathing, so that I could quickly ask the many questions that kept popping up in my head.

After having a conversation with the boys, I realized there was a need for environmental advocacy in hard to reach and marginalized communities like Binga. Increase in environmental harm has a negative impact on children in such areas. Stream bank cultivation and mining in rivers seem to have caused siltation in the river where the boys who were bathing at the hot springs used to get water for laundry and bathing. The river is now full of sand rather than water. Children now must walk to hot springs to bathe, exposing themselves to a lot of risks, this is an area with a lot of wild animals like lions, elephants, and hyenas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), reducing environmental risks could prevent 1 in 4 child deaths.

Environmental harm has an impact on the health and development of children, from birth through childhood and adolescence. It is the environment that determines a child’s future. According to WHO, adverse environmental conditions and pollution are a major contributor to childhood deaths, illness, and disability, particularly in developing countries.

ZELA, with support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), are establishing environmental clubs in primary and secondary schools across 10 wards in Binga. This will enable and capacitate children and young people to be in the forefront when it comes to environmental advocacy.

Marginalized communities have been neglected for a long time in relation to all pertinent social, economic and environmental aspects. Establishing E-clubs in those marginalized areas bridges a gap and equips them with requisite knowledge on how they can sustainably utilize components of the environment, how they can conserve the environment and ultimately how they can protect all their environmental interests.

ZELA’s land and natural resources program management unit lead Ignatius Kudakwashe Maeresa is of the view that children should be involved and ensure their full participation in decision making when it comes to issues affecting the environment since decisions made now will affect them in the future.

“Children are the future and the environmental decisions that are taken today have a significant bearing on their livelihoods. The Inclusion of children in environmental advocacy ensures that their environmental interests are well represented and respected. They also get an opportunity to add their voice in relation to all environmental notions that may affect them,” Maeresa added.

Establishing E-clubs enhances and improves children’s lives within these marginalized areas in so many ways and they will be put on the radar when it comes to issues affecting their communities including environmental issues.

“Under the E-clubs, children are going to be equipped with requisite knowledge pertaining to their environmental rights and how they can enforce them. They are going to be taught on how they can undertake different environmental projects which will also bring economic benefits as well.”

Maeresa also explained that “In this project children will also be trained on youth leadership strategies. In addition to that, selected children from clubs will also have an opportunity to participate in environmental platforms where they can engage with other children from different areas where they will be able to exchange experiences.

“The establishment of an E-Club at our school is a positive move to the school and us as students. We will get to learn about our environment and how important it is to us. We are ready and looking forward to working with ZELA to ensure that all pupils at our school Manjolo High School are aware of how the environment can be protected”. Said Tumune Munkuli a form 2 student at Manjolo High School in Binga.

These E-clubs will also assist in bringing awareness when it comes to environmental law to pupils. They will get to know the laws which govern natural resources and the importance of preserving the environment.

“We are happy that an E-club has been formed at our school. We can now learn more about our environment, today we learnt about environmental laws. We are going to use this knowledge going forward and we look forward to learning more from this e-club.” Said Maria Munsaka a form one pupil at Sianzundu Secondary School in Binga The establishment of these E-clubs by ZELA is a move towards empowering children on environmental rights. It gives a chance for children to speak and be heard, to discuss issues affecting them when it comes to the environment and to act to conserve and protect their environment. 

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