“I’m going to COP 27 with renewed determination”

Thato Gabaitse, Botswana

A youth and parent activist from Botswana, Thato works to raise awareness of how climate change is impacting communities in her country and pushes for climate action at both the national and international levels. Thato will be part of our delegation with Parents For Future Global at COP27. In this piece, she explains why she is a parent climate activist, how her country is impacted and her hopes for COP 27.

I’ve been a mom for eleven years now, and when I joined the parent movement just before Stockholm Plus 50, I realized how important it was to build networks with parents around the world.

I’ve always felt anxious as a parent. Things have escalated so much this year that I feel very concerned. I will do anything, everything – towards making a difference. To ensure that there are instruments that govern and that we are aligned as a country so that we can move towards a less polluted planet.

Being at conferences can get stressful. Leaders can make statements but fail to affirm that they will act. That’s when mothers like Bhavreen from India and Kamila from Poland remind me that we can’t lose hope – that we need to do this for the kids. When you feel hopeless, connecting with other parents makes you feel less alone. You learn about how they are doing things in their countries – you share your strengths and weaknesses. The parent network helps you hold each other in times of weaknesses and find common ground.

I’m going to COP 27 with renewed determination. I’m asking that they put loss and damage, climate finance, and climate justice on their agenda because that’s the only way we can move forward. All amendments and new legislations should come from that standpoint. That is how we can ensure that kids will be put first because then we’ll be able to hold leaders accountable.

In Botswana, and a lot of African countries, marginalized communities are greatly affected by climate change. For example, we have many water bodies here that support our tourism sector, our agriculture industry. The key economic sectors of Botswana. Now, without rainfall, with a loss of water bodies, it means that more and more people are slipping into poverty.

In urban areas, we’re campaigning for legal instruments to govern the number of imported cars coming in. We should be moving towards a better public transport system, rather than cars that use fossil fuel. We are exposed to toxic emissions from cars as well as from the coal mines. Therefore, I’m also advocating for low carbon emissions zones.

Ensuring that there’s climate finance and climate justice on addressing loss and damage means that we’ll be able to move towards technologies that will rehabilitate farmers and the tourism industry. And improve the economy too.

The increased drought and loss of water bodies feeds into other social ills like substance abuse and crime because there is no income in the affected communities. This impacts the education of children. In rural communities, if there is a lack of water, the family would rather get their children to fetch water and other resources than attend school. The kids end up having to work in farms so that they can bring something back home.

I ask my country’s leaders to:

Involve all the stakeholders in your decisions – NGOs, local communities, the youth.

Work on policy reform and make it happen faster. We need quick regulations on imported cars, low emission zones, and protection of water bodies.

The more voices we have the better. The parent voice is important because people can relate to parents. You can be a doctor, you can be a farmer, you can be in different industries, but at the end of the day, you are a parent. And that resonates with everyone.

I’m working solely for the children. I know that through all these efforts, one day we’ll have a better system. One step at a time and soon, the younger generation will have a better world. I always feel that it’s ok if I don’t live to see the benefits – I have at the very least paved the way for someone else. I believe that my actions are creating a dent somewhere towards the change we all want.