Esther: How I’m tackling climate injustice

27 November 2023

In the heart of Sierra Leone, Esther, 24, an activist and student of Gender and Development Studies, shares her story of resilience and determination amid the harsh realities of climate change.

Esther says no to climate injustice!
Esther says no to climate injustice!

Growing up in a deprived area of Sierra Leone, Esther’s life took a dramatic turn as the impacts of climate change reshaped her family, friendships and community. 

Recurrent floods in her district interrupted the education of most of her friends.

“Growing up in that kind of environment and seeing that most of my friends who I walked to school with couldn’t go to school the next day because of the climate crisis, it affected a major part of my life growing up, it affected my friendships.”

Ensuring girls’ voices are heard

Esther has taken climate education to 50 schools across Sierra Leone.
Esther has taken climate education to 50 schools across
Sierra Leone.

“Living in a slum, I witnessed the major victims of climate change. Girls face sexual harassment, kids lose school equipment, and communities suffer during floods. I don’t want to see these things happen to young girls. It’s time to stand up for justice and ensure their voices are heard.”

In Esther’s family, farming served as a lifeline. They faced serious challenges during droughts and extreme weather conditions. The repercussions were profound—her family lost their livelihood, denying most of her siblings the opportunity for education.

“In Sierra Leone, I saw the need for young people to rise up and stand for what truly matters—the world, our planet. We cannot achieve gender equality or peace without fighting for our climate.”

In response to these challenges, Esther set up the Youth Initiative for Climate Action Sierra Leone (YICA), a community-based advocacy group which brings together college students from diverse backgrounds.

The common goal is to see youth involvement in climate action, especially in policy implementation, policymaking, and adaptation. Since its inception, YICA has spread climate change education in 50 schools across Sierra Leone. 

Esther will take her message to the COP28 climate conference

Esther is one of two youth delegates from Plan International’s She Leads Climate Change Cohort selected to represent youth at COP28.

She intends to advocate the two key climate change issues close to her heart: climate finance and climate education. 

“When I started my climate action journey in Sierra Leone, 90% of my projects were self-funded,” Esther reveals.

“One of the key issues close to my heart is climate finance. Young advocates lack funding, and we need seed funding to implement projects that can make a difference.”

“People say that funding is out there, but when you check the criteria, when you check what is involved, we don’t have that much – yet,” she emphasises. 

She also stresses the necessity of integrating climate education into schools across Africa.  

“Climate education is key because our youth in Africa lack awareness. We don’t educate our people about climate change and how they can contribute to the fight. It’s time to integrate climate education into school curriculums.”

As Esther looks forward to COP28, she hopes her priorities—climate finance and education—are addressed comprehensively. She envisions a future where young climate advocates receive the support they need to enact change. 

Esther’s journey is not just personal, but a rallying call for global attention to the intertwined issues of climate justice, education, gender equality and finance.

As she prepares to represent her cohort on the international stage, Esther stands as a symbol of unwavering commitment and hope in the face of adversity. 

Together, we can make a difference

“I want to amplify girls’ rights at COP28,” she states defiantly.

“The interconnectedness of climate issues with global challenges requires collaboration…between governments, businesses, and individuals to achieve sustainable solutions.”

“Together, we can make a difference.”