World leaders have come together in Madrid, Spain, for the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, where they will deliberate on the environmental crisis facing humanity.
The issue of climate change, a key global conversation, has been brought to the fore by youth activists, mainly students such as Greta Thunberg, whose call for urgent climate action culminated in thousands gathering in New York City for a climate strike during the UN General Assembly in September.
At the gathering, in which more than 200,000 people marched across Manhattan, one teenager highlighted stories of a community that remains some of the most vulnerable to climate change – and yet remains under-reported: The women, children, and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Sixteen-year-old Rebeca Sabnam stood in front of a crowd of thousands, recalling the times her uncle had to carry her to school on his back during floods in her hometown Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Climate change activists participate in an environmental demonstration as part of a global youth-led day of action, Friday Sept. 20, 2019, in New York. A wave of climate change protests swept across t
Climate change activists participate in an environmental demonstration as part of a global youth-led day of action in September [Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo]
“I am from Bangladesh, a country that exemplifies how interconnected the climate emergency is to racial justice and poverty,” she said, referencing the discourse on how people of colour are often disproportionately affected by climate change.
Sabnam later told Al Jazeera she thought that when she mentioned Bangladesh, she would hear nothing but silence. Instead, she was overwhelmed by the crowd’s roaring response.
“The climate crisis is not just an environmental issue, it’s an urgent human rights issue,” said Sabnam to the cheers of the crowd in New York.
“Bangladeshi women are extremely vulnerable to post displacement trafficking, magnified by the climate crisis,” she said. “We want Bengali women as well as the Rohingya people living in Bangladeshi refugee camps to know that youth around the world are striking for their lives and security.”
Sabnam, a Bangladeshi American high school student, lives in New York with her family, who migrated to the country when she was six years old.