climate change

Image via: @Sa411_ Twitter

Ayakha Melithafa: 17-year-old climate activist alongside Greta Thunberg

Climate change activist, Ayakha Melithafa has confirmed that she will represent South Africa and attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.

climate change

Image via: @Sa411_ Twitter

Climate change activist, Ayakha Melithafa, 17, from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, will represent her country and tackle the environmental phenomenon in Davos, Switzerland later this month. 

Melithafa will be attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos from 21 January,  where she will speak on panels alongside other climate environmental activists like Greta Thunberg

She said she became a climate activist about two years ago when she and her family was severely affected by the drought. 

“I experienced first-hand the effects of climate change,” she said.  

“I realised then that it’s very important for me as a youth to spread awareness as it will be affecting us the most in the future,” added Melithafa. 

How Melithafa hopes to tackle climate change 

She plans to use the platform to inspire social and climate activism in her community in South Africa, speak out against big emitters who are blocking action, and call on the country to reduce its own emissions and plan a just transition.

Petition to halt the climate crisis 

According to the Mail & Guardian she is one of 16 young people from 12 countries who roughly three months ago, laid a complaint with the Committee for the Rights of the Child, which receives and investigates complaints and monitors implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Their petition was aimed at five of the G20 states — Germany, France, Argentina, Brazil and Turkey — saying that the countries have known about the threats associated with climate change yet are “knowingly causing and perpetuating the climate crisis”.

They want the committee — to which South Africa is a signatory — to find that “climate change is a children’s rights crisis.”

Attached to her UN petition was: “If I could speak to the President of South Africa I would ask to have mandatory teachings for climate change in schools, and make everyone learn about climate change and the solutions. I’m tired of people saying ‘I don’t know if that is true’”. Ayakha would also ask the President to implement ways to reach 100% renewable energy in South Africa, and she would ask the President and other global leaders to stop using fossil fuels, especially coal, and instead to use technology to fight climate change.”

Interview on climate change 

In an interview on Cape Talk’s Lester Kiewiet show with Ismael Lagardien, he opened the floor by saying: “Australia is experiencing the worst bush fire season in living memory, Jakarta is flooded after the worst flooding in 2 decades.”

“We are slowly seeing a change in our climate with some parts of the world suffering from crippling droughts and other parts underwater. We are at a point where if something doesn’t give we could see an irreversible slide into what has been described as the biggest challenge facing humanity,” added Lagardien.

Lagardien asked if we as a country are at a stage where climate change is a threat to humanity. 

Melithafa said it is a real threat to the future. 

“Actually it’s a threat now because we’re already seeing how much people are suffering all over the world, like with the wildfires in Australia,” she said. 

“Even the rising sea levels and melting ice caps,” she added.  

Those responsible for climate change must be held accountable 

Lagardien explained that there are different people with different world views. 

“There are people that believe that these are natural changes in society and we should accept it. Then there are others who recognise the crisis but still believe we should continue the way we are,” he said. 

“I understand what people say but we are speeding up the process of climate change, causing these catastrophic events to occur. Up to 200 organisms are becoming extinct every day,” said Melithafa. 

She said we need corporations and government to be held accountable as she feels they are the ones contributing to climate change the most.  

“Even the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, they are not given time to recover before another one hits them. Those floods cause pollution, they cause infrastructure to collapse, they are causing viruses and bacteria to spread in the air and in the water so it’s very bad for people in South Africa right now. Yet our government are still shying away from it,” she added. 

Melithafa needs a helping hand 

The forum invited her and will cover basic costs, but for her to have the biggest possible impact, she faces more expenses and only has two more weeks to prepare.

Here’s how you can help Ayakha represent South Africans:

  • Donate here.
  • Share the donation link on social media and with supportive friends, family and colleagues.
  • Journos can contact Natalie Geyser to interview Ayakha:, +27 76 739 0237