Name: Ineza Umuhoza Grace
Fearlessly Standing for Environmental Protection: The Green Fighter
Africa is the most vulnerable continent in term of negative impact due to climate change either on its economy or the wellbeing of it’s population, Being the most young continent on the globe where more than the average of its population is youth this can be considered as a challenge or an opportunity to Africa. In 2017, I was selected to participate in the first youth forum under UNCCCD/ COP 13 in China, this was a result from my past achievement and engagement in serving for the protection of the environment in my community.
Participating in the COP made me realize that there is much than can be done namely to combat desertification and the protection of the nature environment, but the most threatening issue is the environmental knowledge gap that exist within the African community and if nothing was done to address this, it would results in an unstable development of our continent hence putting the next generation at risk.
On my way back to my country, I started to think and brainstorm what is the best way to increase my contribution in the protection of the environment, I knew deep down that this is not something I can do alone, so the first step was to establish a platform where youth with the same ambition will come together. It was in January 2018 that I launched the first online application disseminated within the University of Rwanda where interested university candidate could apply and be ready to show their engagement for the protection of the environment. 38 replies were received, and it was impressive to find out that each of them had a specific issue that they needed to address in their community.
Having the big team was something that increased my inspiration to contribute to the protection of the environment all through youth actions and initiatives, but for all of this to happen I needed to have a clear goal of what I wanted, a strategical road map of how it will be done and specific objectives to know whether I am reaching my goal. My goal was to “create the first youth active environmental NGO in Rwanda that will serve as a successful lesson for the youth”, the strategical road map was “to be registered under Rwandan Governmental Board, have number of activities that will speak for themselves in the Rwandan community and on the global level” Specific objective was “to identify sector to operate in and have a clear leadership style that will facilitate the growth.”
With the consideration of the sector into which my community are more suffering, sectors into which the NGO was to operate was decided to be Agriculture, Water, Waste, Energy and Environmental Education. In December 2018 the NGO was registered under Rwandan Governance Board under the name “The Green Fighter” having a motto “Friends of the environment and the community”.
Youth are mainly pictured as the weak asset of the community in terms of experience, skills, finance and self-control, but Youth are also the gold of the community as they are the one who holds the sustainable development of a nation, so for me I choose to act in a sense that the future environment will be protected through youth efforts and engagement.
The Green Fighter choose to first show what we can achieve on our effort, that is the main reason that to this date we are still alive and still engaging on the national and international level. To date we have several successful actions that speak for its selves in the Rwandan community and we look forward to aspiring more youth in Africa and the region.
From the past year, The Green Fighter is now an NGO having 12 staff, and above 50 youth volunteers across the country, more than 20 schools where our actions has an impact and more than 2000 youth that have been the beneficiary of our actions. We grew to be more active and to be more vibrant. Through the leadership spirit that is rotten in the fact that environment protection comes before personal comfort, we are ready to hold our engagement.
Being aware that in order to make the noise in the community innovation and creativity is needed, and also by carefully considering that most of the action that we want to do requires a minimum fund, we decided that we will not wait for big fund in order to act we will rather act with the minimum we have. With this spirit now the NGO is standing in a place where the community is aware of our impact, yes we act mainly in the environmental education but our approach and strategies are so clear and youth based that we are currently having an MOU with the University of Rwanda in order to give our contribution in introducing green campus within its students and its environment.
Yes, youth can’t do everything, but with the right connection and engagement they can do something, I and my fellow youth within the organization, we decided to do something for our environmental protection. Targeted activities in the next couple of months are the celebration world cleaning day where youth will be aware to take responsibility of the waste they generate, and to plant 1 billion trees in Rwanda as a big number of our landscape is suffering erosion due to urbanization.
In order for The Green Fighter to increase our ability to deliver the best in our community we needed to have some skills development it is in this regards that 50% of the staff was trained in order to develop bankable project that will serve in solving specific issue within the community, to date more than 5 projects were designed and submitted, 3/12 of the staff serve as young negotiator under the UNFCCC with thematic area of Adaptation, Finance and Mitigation with the nomination of the focal point, 1/12 staff is following the UNCCD closely. All of this wouldn’t be possible if we haven’t understood that knowing where you want to go is completely different from doing what it takes to reach there.
As I can say “Challenge exists only in the pathway to success” I decide to work against the odd, and belief regarding a young girl founding and operating an NGO, yes, it is was hard but not impossible. I care deeply for my environment and the legacy that I want to leave behind is the sense of environment protection in each youth locally, regional and globally will have in while operating in different sector of activities.
In conclusion, Youth ambition in environmental sector can’t be something to be taken for granted and my message for everyone in governmental sector is “Acknowledge the little that youth NGO are accomplishing, they are not doing them for you but for the future and when you are making it more complex in terms of working together you slowly reduce their ambition”. Yes, it requires resource to act but the most important is a clear goal, specific objectives and hence a firm commitment.
Ineza Umuhoza Grace
Founder/CEO, The Green Fighter