Capacitate institutions to nurture climate-resilient children


guest column:Peter Makwanya

THE child-centred approaches in climate discourse is paramount in shaping their life-styles according to the sustainable future that they want. This is part of a large framework of institutional capacities aimed at transforming their vision into tangible climate actions and deliverables for environmental sustainability by demonstrating positive footprints and climate action strategies aimed at nature restorations and improved food security.

The child-centred approach is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Situating children at the heart of sustainable development and recognising them as capable and effective communicators of risks and drivers of change in their communities in order to realise transformations in their livelihoods should be enhanced.

It is important in this regard to advocate for a greater voice for children and young people in relevant aspects of decision-making forms at local, national and international levels. This would become key in ensuring that their needs are met and respected as well as their capacities being recognised and utilised. Of course, children are particularly vulnerable as is the norm, to the impacts of climate change, but they are not without value and use. In this regard, children need to be engaged and interviewed in order to assess their climate convictions, perspectives and readiness in dealing with climate change issues. There is also crucial need for the child-centered activities and programmes to be documented and the publication of evidence on children — specific concerns on climate change impacts. In this respect, the connection between climate change and other related challenges affecting children also needs to be linked.

As issues central to children are handled, children should not only be recognised as victims and incapable but also having sufficient and sustainable roles to play. Therefore, children need to be part of a large framework for building community resilience, hence they require the right and conducive environment, complemented by constructive political will in order for them to participate positively.

The right political will gives assurance and sets the tone for sustainable development. These are social constructions which enable children to be engaged, oriented and transformed as change agents which the 21st century envisages to have.

The safety and resilience of communities in which children and other young people contribute to managing and reducing the risks associated with climate change is highly anticipated. As part of their ongoing interactive and participatory climate engagements, children can be nurtured into engaging video recording, documenting climate risks and come up with documentaries. Children’s photographing techniques and report writing skills can also be nurtured so that, only them and no one else can tell their own stories and experiences, according to their needs and ideologies. These digital-oriented skills are far-reaching enough for confidence boosting and building as well as self-esteem to increase their knowledge and understanding of climate change impacts and situations.

It is within the children’s interests and convictions that they require strategic placement and nurturing in order to be in a position to collect information, construct and storify as well as interviewing and edit their videos. From the stories learnt, children can be nurtured to use cameras to document the climate change impacts in their relevant communities so that they can make their voices heard and appreciated. These participatory videos can be produced and uploaded, and would be ready for utilisation.

When climate change affects children, it does so entirely in terms of their safety and health, protection, education, livelihood prospects and overall well-being. In this regard, it starts from a child-rights perspective to engage children in exploring how their individual rights could be affected by disasters and climate change impacts. Therefore, children should be able to identify steps at individual, household and community levels to tackle climate-related risks and increase their adaptive capacities in order to improve their resilience. The relevant empowering institutions need to be able to identify adaptation gaps and address children’s underlying vulnerabilities by realising the interconnectedness of development issues. By so doing, children would be empowered through relevant and appropriate child-friendly working tools and methodologies which would also ensure the smooth transfer of climate adaptation and skills.

After this has been done, children would have been sufficiently nurtured to assess, plan, and monitor their community-based local climate solutions which are context specific and relevant to their lives and future aspirations. These would be aimed at resonating well with the wider communities as well as local and national governments and policymakers. This means that children would be strategically and systematically integrated into initial broad framework of planning, taking into account climate-change risks into their development plans and activities. This becomes important in nurturing child-centered risk reduction and adaptation for the transformation of children’s voices in sustainable development.

The issues of power relations between children and parents, including other elders in different cultural contexts as well gender concerns between boys and girls, should be examined and regulated for sustainable progress. When these changes have been effected, children’s issues would no longer be stereotyped as perpetually vulnerable, hence the methods and tools for working with children need to be harnessed and explored.

Child-centred information and networking nurturing tools for increasing the role of children in community-based adaptation would then always remain central to the empowering and transformation of children’s placement in climate change and life-long sustainable development issues.

Above all, children should be viewed as adequate wholes whose potential in social transformation is immense because they are not only a dynamic force, but trusted change agents of sustainable development as well.