Generation of Change

Message from SPREP Youth Ambassador, Ms Brianna Fruean upon presenting at the Day of General Discussion on Children's Rights and the Environment at the 73rd session of the Committee of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva in September. Ms Fruean joined Ambassadors, UN Representatives, child representatives and academics in the one day event with her panel specifically focussing on 'Children and the effects of environmental degradation – children's rights and climate change." Ms. Fruean presented on 26 September, 2016 at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Attendance by Ms. Fruean was supported by UNICEF Pacific.

SYA20161Supreme Court Judge, Samoa, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, a member of the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child, with Ms. Brianna Fruean and other child panellists.  Photo: Facebook

"Growing up I believed there were monsters and then there were heroes in this world. In every child's movie I watched there was the huge scary daunting creature that the people feared, but then there was always the heroic warrior who stood up for the people and changed the plot of the narrative. In my story climate change is my monster. A creature that I heard whispers of as a little girl. Now people say its name loudly and clearly because we know it's all around us. The thing about this monster is that it gets stronger by the day and the individuals who will feel its full wrath will be my generation of young people.

In the Pacific there is not a day that we would not hear, see or experience the word "climate change". Things that our ancestors never had to worry about are now things we have to fear for our children. Even having to fear one day the sea will engulf our land and our children won't have an island to call home at all. There are two options you can take when put in such situation, see yourselves as victims or see yourselves as warriors. I would choose the last option.

This past week I have left my island of Samoa and arrived on the other side of the world in beautiful Geneva. Here to attend the 73rd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, highlighting how a child's rights are affected by climate change. Being in Geneva and meeting children from all corners of the world who are also severely impacted by environmental defects has opened my eyes to the fact that our world has lived for so long without any consideration of how yesterday's choices determine the state of today. Gina a young and bright 16 year old girl from Colombia told me that the river in her village is so heavily polluted from nearby mining that when children come in contact with it they get bad skin problems. When asked if children are afraid of this water, Gina replied "No, we are not afraid because we are used to it". She also said that back home if she puts a glass of water out for the day by the end of the day it will be completely black from the pollution in the air. It broke my heart hearing her daily reality.

Just like children in the Pacific the world and humanity has failed her. As Gina continued to speak she shared how her and other children in her community have started programmes and action plans to act on the environmental problems in their community. As she spoke of her projects her face lit up, she didn't see herself as a victim she saw herself as a warrior. So many young people like Gina around the world know that we as children and youth were not put in the best ecological position but have risen above.

14469449 10210822999993678 8889150484854295384 nMs. Brianna Fruean and her panel.  Photo: Facebook

I truly do believe that this generation of young people are the ones that will change everything. Children and youth have the capacity and passion to be the world's biggest agents of change; we just need the support, motivation and platform to do so. If you are a young person (or even an older young person) reading this and wondering - 'how exactly am I suppose to change the world? Or fix problems like pollution and climate change?'

Well everybody has a role to play and you definitely don't need superpowers to do so. Start small by committing to being a considerate green citizen of this planet, walk instead drive, take the bus, bike, recycle, buy local, reduce your food waste, compost, say no to plastic and live life always being aware that your choices today will affect our generation and the next the most. Remember that no action is too small because the little things add up to greater change. Act now and see how many you can influence. If not for the children of the Pacific, or for Gina and the children of Colombia, do it for your own children and future children. The choice is ours to be the victims of this narrative or the heroes." – Briannna Fruean, SPREP Youth Ambassador
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