Esther Agbarakwe is a regular at climate change conferences. She was at COP 15, COP17 and Rio+20, leading youth representation to participate in the conversations about the impact of global warming on Africa. “Because climate change is about the future, young people should be at the centre of policy, actions & global political decisions”, reads a tweet pinned to her Twitter handle, @estherclimate. Online and offline, it appears the climate is her main obsession.
Agbarakwe became interested in the environment from an early age. At 10, she began her advocacy on children’s rights issues in her community, Calabar, Cross River State, where she was raised. In her teenage years, she worked on reproductive issues and HIV/AIDS as it affects young people, taking her campaigns to secondary schools in the state. Her advocacy on these issues continued well into her university days. It was in 2007, when she volunteered as a youth advocate in the ActionAid International HungerFREE Activista Project, that she became involved in the subject of climate change. And she has not relented since then.
Two years later, Agbarakwe and her friends launched the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition (NYCC). Her primary concern is the need for youth engagement in discussions about climate change and for youth involvement in decision making at the highest levels. “We believe that when young people know the urgency of the climate crisis they will act,” The elders quoted her.
“Created on June 6th 2009…the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition (NYCC) aims to inspire, empower and unite ordinary young people around a vision of a cleaner and fairer future,” she said in an interview with Bellanaija. “I am a vegetarian and am very passionate about the environment and the role the people can play toward environmentally sustainable growth,” she added.
Esther Agbarakwe was born on 21 April, 1984. She studied Chemistry at the University of Calabar and holds a Post-graduate certificate in Sustainable Development from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She grew up in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria, a region where poverty and exploitation of oil resources mix to produce grave environmental degradation”, she has said.
With a grant from the Earth Charter’s Youth Special Project, she organised capacity building workshops on peace and environmental sustainability in the Niger-Delta, using local languages and folk tales to educate young people in rural areas while employing English and ICT tools with people in urban centres. In 2008, the project won her a chance to attend a UN high-level meeting on sustainable development where she addressed the opening session on behalf of youth and children worldwide.
“Climate change is a global issue, affecting everyone and requiring everyone to take urgent action. The name and language may sound foreign, but the impact is felt everywhere in the world, including Nigeria,” she said in an interview with Ynaija.
Agbarakwe has toured the world, spreading this message about global warming and its impact on the world. She has served as an Atlas Corps International Advocacy Fellow with Population Action International in Washington DC, and as a technical advisor to the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC). She is also a Commonwealth Youth Climate fellow and a Dekeyser & Friends Foundation Academy awardee. Agbarakwe is a recipient of the 2010 LEAP Africa Youth Leadership Award.
She identifies Odigha Odigha of the Cross River Forestry Commission as a mentor, whose support has helped her along in her campaigns. Another factor for her success? “Follow your heart, it won’t lead you astray,” she told Ynaija.
In the future, Agbarakwe wants to be an International Development consultant and, hopefully, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment. All facts considered, these are modest ambitions.