GYV SDGs CUP WINNER: Young generations fighting for environmental preservation in Liberia
My Name is Wantoe Teah Wantoe, I’m 23 and I am an Advocate, a humanitarian and a blogger from Liberia, Africa. Currently I am the president of the Liberian National Children and Youth Advisory Board. Since the age of 9, I have participated in several rallies, petitions, and awareness campaigns to advocate for the rights of Liberian children and humanity at large.
In 2013, I served as a member of a global youth steering committee to develop and implement the Global Voice for Change project, which helped young people around the world connect, learn and advocate together at an international level.
In 2015, I represented Liberian Youths in Qatar, where I participated in the launching of the Doha Youth Declaration on Reshaping the Humanitarian Agenda. I was also appointed as a Country Focal Person by a country led committee of the United Nation’s Major Group for Children and Youth West and Central Africa Regional Leadership for Humanitarian. In 2016, I participated and delivered a preliminary statement at the first ever United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, highlighting the importance of global support and intervention in West Africa for its recovery, after the Ebola outbreak.
In 2018, I was Ambassador for the Friendship Foundation Campus, and I had to mobilize Liberians for the 2018 winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations. I was also certified as an Esteem Campus Ambassador at the 2018 winter Youth Assembly. I’ve had my blogs featured in Voices of Youth, the Huffington post, Global dailies, Icon episode and more. At the National Children and Youth Advisory Board, I lead a team that engages on anti-rape awareness campaigns.outbreak.
Everyday I work hard to create innovative solutions to crises and challenges in my community. I do this by writing on my blogs about youth initiatives and by being vocal on issues that concern children. Through these actions I want to help make Sustainable Development Goals a reality. My aim is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies and provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
For example, during the height of the Ebola crisis in Liberia, it was clear that the lack of information on protective measures and the persistent denial of the existence of the virus in communities, towns and cities only helped increase the numbers of deaths by Ebola. The vehement neglect at both national and international level led to an intensifying spread of the virus. These conditions resulted in the loss of over 4,808 lives out of 10,672 cases. These deaths included nurses and doctors too.
Therefore, as the president of the National Children and Youth Advisory Board, I decided to address the problem with a media awareness campaign, because at that time the vast majority of Liberians didn’t even know what Ebola was, let alone how they could avoid getting infected by the virus. Therefore, we conducted a week-long workshop for young people and communities with the help of a trained medical practitioner. Also, we visited most of the local radio stations, driving long distances to get there, to reach over two million Liberians and spread the message on how to prevent getting infected.
However, I thought that the radio wasn’t enough, so we decided to engage in door-to-door awareness communication. So, we physically went door to door, talking to people about prevention. On a few occasions, we even reported potential Ebola cases, even though we knew it was risky for our own safety, given how the disease spreads easily through physical interaction, even with sweat. We visited everyone, from children to adults, from every stratum of society.
They all came out of our intervention inspired, educated and able to prevent contamination. We also used WhatsApp, text messages and phone calls to provide psychological support to young people and develop communication strategies to ensure the right information was reaching communities.
This is only an example, but every single one of the initiatives that I have embarked on aims at creating a safe space for children and preventing them from any sort of violence and threat.
Also, my team and I are working to tackle the problem of climate change, that is affecting my country in many ways. As a result, sea erosion, air pollution, deforestation and famine are only a few common climate change effects that are impacting the environment. These things lead to malnutrition, ill health and migration, which make youth particularly vulnerable to suffering. However, on the other hand, youth constitute the majority of the population in many countries and have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, which will give them the power to lead our societies towards a sustainable future.
Therefore, as a response to climate action, I want to bring forward a project called “Liberian Youths involvement in climate change action”. The objective of the project is to improve food security and resilience to climate change in 20 communities around Liberia, encouraging low land farming and Forestry Development Authority to halt deforestation.
The project also seeks to address barriers of insufficient knowledge and awareness amongst farmers on climate change. With my vast experience in advocacy, I intend to join the campaign to revitalize the agriculture sector and ensure that adaptation to climate change is integrated into relevant policies and planning processes at national level. This will ensure a local drive that will bring to the realization of Goal 1: “No Poverty”, Goal 2: “Zero Hunger”, Goal 13: “Climate Action” and Goal 15: “Life on Land”.
If I were to be given the prize money, it would all go to our climate change project. The implementation of this project is very important, because climate change and environmental preservation have been far neglected issues by the Liberian government and Liberian institutions. It’s time to address the reality that lies with the current increasing challenges of farmers and as well the economic effects of post Ebola crisis, which both have made the situation of already extremely poor vulnerable households, much worse. I am very passionate about this project and I feel that winning the prize money will help empower the lives of thousands of Liberian farmers and their families, providing them with seeds, that will serve as a starting point for the crop provision.