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Natalie Esmail: Empowering MENA Youth to Become Advocates for Climate Action

Natalie Esmail: Empowering MENA Youth to Become Advocates for Climate Action

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hi friends, it’s Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on changemaking leaders making the world a more equitable place! Today I’m excited to cruise around with Natalie Esmail, Climate Action and Youth Engagement Specialist at UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Office. Are you ready to be inspired?

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Natalie! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your division?

Natalie: As the Youth Engagement and Climate Action Specialist at UNICEF's MENA Regional Office, my work focuses on empowering young people to become advocates for climate action. This includes providing them with the necessary support, resources, and knowledge. Specifically, we aim to scale up UNICEF's Youth Engagement programme to address the climate crisis by developing climate education materials and toolkits, building young people's capacity to conduct participatory action research on climate change, and supporting their efforts to become climate advocates.

Spiffy: Amazing! What motivates you to do it?

Natalie: As a master's student in sustainable development, I have gained a deep understanding of the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for immediate action. I have also become more aware of the social and economic impacts of climate change, including displacement, loss of livelihoods, and increased poverty, which are all critical to understanding the full extent of the issue. I feel compelled to share my expertise and help young people develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective climate advocates.

Spiffy: Can you further elaborate on the impact of your work?

Natalie: Our goal is to empower young people to become advocates for climate action by providing them with support, resources, and knowledge. We achieve this through initiatives like developing accessible climate education materials and building young people's capacity for participatory action research. This work amplifies young people's voices and perspectives, leading to more effective and sustainable solutions that create a more resilient and equitable world for all.

Spiffy: Kudos to you for aiming to build a more resilient and equitable world! Tell me about a recent milestone or initiative by you or the organization. What impact does that make on your community?

Natalie: I was one of the authors of the MENA regional Young Climate Activist Toolkit, which aims to empower young people with the knowledge and skills to address the climate crisis. The toolkit was developed through a participatory process with young people and the United Nations Development Programme, ensuring its relevance and effectiveness. Its clear and concise information prepares young people for full and informed participation in climate action, while its contextualisation and adaptation address regional challenges.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Natalie: It's crucial to recognise that addressing the climate crisis necessitates collective action and continued effort. While young people play an essential role in driving change, we also need the support of different sectors to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Only by working together can we achieve lasting progress and ensure a safe and healthy planet for both present and future generations. Young people have the power to make a difference in climate change. In order to do that, they need to learn about the issue and its impacts. They should arm themselves with knowledge, so they can take informed action, and stay informed. With the right information, they can make a real impact.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Natalie—it’s been an honor!

Natalie Esmail,  Climate Action and Youth Engagement Specialist at UNICEF MENA Regional Office and an MSc in Sustainable Development student at SOAS University of London. (Nominated by Vina Barahman at UNICEF. First published on the Ladderworks website on March 23, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.