Dina and Amal Farooq Malik are no ordinary children. Unlike any other 11 and 13 year olds out there, these two sisters are deeply passionate about the environment and strongly advocate for environmental education and awareness – they are also the co-founders of the Seeds of Education, Policy and Legal Awareness Association (SEPLAA) Young Leaders Club in Pakistan.
It is easy to spot them at the 5th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Sri Lanka. They were the only children who attended the forum! It is very refreshing to see two vibrant, joyful girls going around collecting pledges among the crowd of serious looking adults in formal attire.
Ammara Malik, the mother of Dina and Amal, made a bold statement during the Opening Plenary’s Q&A session by stating, “Where are the children?” She made a courageous point that within the countless panel discussions with high end and educated speakers who stressed on the importance of education, awareness and capacity building in tackling climate change, yet there are no children involved or participating in the process of consultation, dialogues or decision making.
“SEPLAA Young Leaders Club carry out workshops and classes to underprivileged children, not only on environment but on healthcare as well,” explained Amal.
It was their first time at an international conference. They admitted that they initially thought that it would be boring, but it turned out to be fun. They went around collecting pictures as pledges for their project.
“I believe that children hold a strong voice in decision making, a big part of inclusiveness,” expressed Ammara.
Indeed, children and youth voices are often under-represented when it comes to decision making at both local and international platforms. Children and youth led organisations like SEPLAA Young Leaders Club, among many others, are instilling faith by moving forward with the knowledge transfer and information sharing. For a better and informed future generation, we need to start from young.
Written by Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham