Teen climate activist Ayakha Melithafa reps South Africa alongside Greta Thunberg

‘We do need more people of colour in the fight against climate change’

Teen climate activist Ayakha Melithafa is repping South Africa alongside Greta Thunberg. She is taking the drought to the UN and the WEF. And we’re SO gd proud. Here’s what you need to know about the South African voice of youth-led climate activism.

Related: Children All Over the World Skip Class to Protest in the Climate Strike

Who is teen climate activist Ayakha Melithafa?

Firstly, she’s 17-years-old. This fearless teenager is from Eerste River in Cape Town. We’re mad proud of this young climate activist repping South Africa on the international stage.

Climate change threatened Ayakha’s family’s income. So this cause is immediately personal to her lived experience.


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Spreading awareness about climate change on ETV

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Guys, she’s still in high school, grade 11 at the Centre of Science and Technology in Khayelitsha. And she’s using her voice for climate justice. Particularly, speaking up for a low-carbon footprint locally.

Some of the dope initiatives contributing to her vision and education include Project 90 by 2030 and the African Climate Alliance.

Also, she is SO here for diverse voices in climate change.

Related: Students Protest Climate Change at Parliament on World Environment Month

She repped SA at the UN last year

Ayakha joined Greta Thunberg along with 14 other climate activists. What were they doing exactly? It’s pretty badass. The kids (aged between 8 and 17) went to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to sign a legal complaint last year.

Young activists from all over the world were represented, except for the USA, the biggest polluter of them all was absent. They are the only country that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. FFS Trump.

Her story was included in a groundbreaking 100-page legal document that holds high-carbon states accountable for abusing child rights by ignoring the climate crisis.

Related: 16-Year-Old Activist Greta Thunberg Just Tore Apart Greedy Politicians During Her United Nations Speech

Here’s what she has to say:

  • ‘We do need more people of colour in the fight against climate change,’ she told Daily Maverick.

She would like to see more South Africans stand up for climate change.

  • ‘My mom… is a farmer near East London and we need water for the livestock and crops growing on the farm. When there is no water, animals and crops don’t survive,’ she told WWF.

She emphasises how marginalised communities are more severely affected by climate change.

  • ‘Why there are no measures put in place to combat climate change and to make sure that disadvantaged people are not the most severely affected by it.’Ayakha Melithafa

What’s it like in the life of teen climate activist Ayakha Melithafa? She explains that balancing school with her activism work is no easy task.

  • ‘Honestly juggling school work and activism is hard but I have a great support system that keeps me sane.’Ayakha Melithafa

Related: Greta Thunberg is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year

This is what she’s doing now – and what her Mom thinks:

Currently, Ayakha and her mother are gearing up for this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland. With 3,000 global leaders from different walks of life, IOL reports that his gathering has a more diverse range of climate activists than ever before.


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At the WEF to send an authentic African message and change is coming

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Here’s what her mother, Nokulunga Sophazi-Melithafa, thinks of her teenage daughter and her cause:

“I still had this stereotypical thinking that drought comes from God. but she told me, ‘No, Mom, there’s a reason and it’s because of the way we’ve been using the planet that was given to us. That’s why we are encountering so many challenges.’ She made me understand.” IOL reports.

Ayakha and her mother will fly to Switzerland together as her daughter is a minor. Once again, she will represent SA alongside eight other youth activists, including Greta Thunberg.

“I’m very proud of her,” her mother says. “I think I’m more excited than she is because I don’t have as much pressure as she does.”

The young activist is set to urge South Africa to reduce its own emissions and to shake South African leaders into taking action.

“In our community, people used to say, ‘What’s this thing your daughter is talking about?’ Now they’re changing the question and asking, ‘What can we do to be part of reversing this whole situation?’. It’s really amazing,” says Ayakha’s mom.

She continues:

“We depend entirely on the rain and if it doesn’t rain, we really struggle. The poor and marginalised are the first to be hit by the results of climate change.”

We stand behind you, girl!

Related: Here’s How You Can Help Fight Climate Change

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