Real Talk with Vanessa Nakate
Vanessa Nakate is a climate activist from Uganda, and a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. She answered questions from TFK Kid Reporter Celsey O’Hare.
What does it mean to be a UNICEF goodwill ambassador?
I get to meet people on the front lines of the climate crisis. I see my role as amplifying their voices. I want to shine a light on the issue of climate change and how it’s affecting people, especially children.
You’ve given speeches about the impact of climate change. Which has been your most powerful?
One that has been very powerful for me was when I spoke at COP26 [the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference], in Glasgow, Scotland. I got the opportunity to ask government leaders, and also business leaders, to do the right thing to ensure that our planet is protected.
What’s the hardest part of being an activist?
One of the hardest things is having to see the consequences of climate change. For example, the drought in the Horn of Africa, the flooding in Pakistan, or the recent hurricanes in the United States. It’s very sad to see all those events happen.
What keeps you motivated to fight climate change?
I’m motivated by young people like you. You’re interviewing me, and I think that’s so inspiring. It gives me the energy for what I’ll do tomorrow. My motivation comes from young people who are doing something for our planet and organizing in their communities.
What’s the most recent climate-related project you’ve worked on?
I have a project that I started in 2019. We give solar panels to schools in Uganda, and clean cooking stoves [which are better for the environment]. The solar panels have helped bring lighting to the schools, which makes education much easier for the children. And when it comes to the stoves, one of the things I’ve heard from the students is that they get to eat warm food. It helps them concentrate in class.
What’s next for you?
I hope to get more solar panels and stoves for schools. And I hope to continue speaking up for people’s right to food, clean water, and shelter.
UNICEF recently had its 75th anniversary. How would you like to carry its mission forward?
As a goodwill ambassador, I hope to use my platform to talk about the need for protecting children, especially children who are suffering because of extreme weather events caused by climate change.
Climate change can feel overwhelming and scary for some kids. What advice do you have for them?
In order to address this big issue, just find one thing you can do. No person is too small to make a difference. No action is too small to transform the world.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. It was originally published in TIME for Kids on November 2, 2022.