Almaaz is a 14-year-old student and climate activist from South Africa. She is the High School Liaison for the Youth Climate Action Plan at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). Almaaz won the Eskom Science Expo in South Africa for her original creation of a sustainable cool box for food. She is also passionate about the farming industry, and is committed to tackling the water scarcity issue in South Africa. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the piano, tennis and baking.
What are your key takeaways from the #LearningPlanet Assembly? What were some inspiring moments for you?
The #LearningPlanet Assembly as a whole was absolutely insightful. I have joined many conferences, sessions, and webinar series because I am interested in climate change. I can say with confidence that the #LearningPlanet events are most of the time on top of my list. People are often working towards the same goal all around the world, and the #LearningPlanet Assembly brings these people together. It offers such a great diversity of people from all genders, ethnic groups, and ages. During the Assembly, I heard projects similar to my own, and it provided me with a unique opportunity to make great connections and accelerate the progress of my projects. I would love to see these kinds of events like the #LearningPlanet Assembly on a large scale in my community because it creates a sense of unity and a positive outlook that encourages people to work towards and be inspired to make a positive change.
How can we create a meaningful and resourceful mentoring space between youth and adults? What would be the structure of such a space?
I think the simple answer is that we need more large-scale initiatives like the #LearningPlanet Circles. I believe we will start to see real change when we move away from having consultations where everyone prepares a speech, gives their opinions, and holds a panel to defend their points. When we start to exchange experiences and stories, it can be more emotional and build empathy inside people. I think the older generations need to mentor the youth so that we can learn from our past mistakes and not repeat them in the future. We should prioritize making these unique and intergenerational spaces. For instance, the #LearningPlanet Circles are very interactive, bring people from all around the world together, and allow information sharing. I think it is exactly what we need.
How can we make effective intergenerational collaboration between young people and decision-makers happen?
I think that we need to put ourselves in each others’ shoes and listen to each other with empathy. Teenagers from my generation and people from the older generation should work together. Older generations have a lot of wisdom, and they can be a middle mind to bring everyone together. We need to have a common vision. We also need to create a space in the decision-making process for youth and older generations to share their knowledge, experiences, thoughts, desires and hopes. For example, I was privileged to have meetings with some of the biggest car, petrol, mining, and energy supply companies that were probably also the biggest polluters in the region. While discussing the youth views to hold companies accountable, they were very hostile and peddled the excuse that we need to give them solutions first before criticizing. I think it can be a true reflection of how much we need to create a diverse decision-making space involving youth.
(Photo courtesy of Almaaz Mudaly, copyright: Almaaz Mudaly)