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A campus-based climate activist takes to the streets (YOUNG CLIMATE ACTIVIST SERIES)

A shared enthusiasm for music, the environment and social sharing helped this young woman grow a climate action group on campus. Now, she and her fellow campaigners are hitting the streets.

by bird story agency

Fridays are always full-on, for a group of 100 students at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, in Harare. After preparing placards and billboards, the group proceeds to a park where they update each other on the status of the work being done by different members of their organization, the Fridays for Future Initiative.

The group holding placards and billboards made of cartons and manilla papers. Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

After an hour or so of discussion and debate, members break into song, then stage marches around the campus, before hitting the streets and walking to Harare's central business district, about 7 kilometres away.

At the centre of the planning and organization is 23-year old Tafadzwa Kurotwi Malaika. The third-year IT student says her passion for climate change advocacy developed early, from age 14, when she was still in high school.

Tafadzwa Kurotwi. Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

Malaika was born and raised in Mashingu, a marginalised community among the Shona and Karanga people whose survival is absolutely pegged to subsistence farming.

Malaika became alarmed when, as a young girl, she saw how the community and especially her family kept registering a drop in farm produce.

“It is funny how even today they link the drop in rainfall, the increased droughts and general low farm produce to everything else but climate change,” the climate awareness ambassador explained.

It was only when she got to university that Malaika was able to take to the internet to find out more. She quickly realised she could use her online skills not only to gain knowledge but also to motivate for change.

“Every time I look back I marvel at the way the internet has helped me become more informed and more prepared to lead fellow youth in the path to climate education,” the climate advocacy enthusiast said.

Besides using peaceful marches and protest to raise awareness, the group is part of a larger movement that is brought together by music.

The group together after a music performance. Photo credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

“We are all musicians or lovers of music under the umbrella unit of Climate Live Zimbabwe which is a music concert group that besides organizing music concerts, propagates climate education,” Malaika explained.

The Fridays for Future movement engages in street cleaning, community education and planting trees.

A member going around the school showing the infomercial cards advocating for climate change action. Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

The group is also in the process of conducting research on the available options and innovations they can leverage to recycle plastics collected from the streets and community neighbourhoods.

“We have managed to initiate active programs ranging from garbage collection to climate education and tree planting in five towns including Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo, Murehwa and Kadoma,” she reported proudly.

“Within a very short time we are almost at 720 trees and we hope to reach 1000 by end-year, a target we will hit as soon as the rains resume. We have now even seen President Emmerson Mnangagwa take part in some of the street cleaning campaigns which is a gesture we don’t take lightly,” she added.

The group staging protest-like marching that spearheads climate education and street cleaning. Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

Malaika said she believes that youth have an obligation to know the danger lying ahead for the world and to speak out, because “everyone especially young people should have a voice and a role to play in the climate space.”

While she has not gotten the opportunity to project the message of climate action to her rural community in Mashingu, she believes with support and consistent hard work, she will have the capacity to educate more Zimbabweans.

Tafadzwa Kurotwi holding an informercial. Photo Credits: Tafadzwa Kurotwi

“We in Catholic University are lucky because we have access to information and resources that have built our climate education base but this is a war and we cannot fight alone,” she stated, promising to lead her group of young activists to demand improvement in climate awareness and climate education.

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