Time100 Impact Award: Climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti feted

TIME100 has named Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti the recipient of this year’s ‘Time100 Impact Award’ alongside Indian actor Ayushmann Khurrana, American South Korean-based singer Eric Nam, American actor/Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan and Iraqi-American activist Zainab Salbi.

TIME100 said Ms Wathuti, 28, was selected for the coveted award because she is dedicated to the legacy of the late Wangari Maathai as she helped craft a three-year strategy for the Wangari Maathai Youth Hub and has also been the lead coordinator of the first-ever African Youth Climate Assembly. Ms Wathuti will be receiving her award during an invite-only award ceremony on September 17, at the National Gallery in Singapore.

“This year, she has worked as the lead coordinator of the first-ever African Youth Climate Assembly which seeks to unite and amplify the perspective of young Africans into international climate discussions and she helped craft a three-year strategy for the Wangari Maathai Youth Hub—a non-profit organisation, dedicated to the legacy of the late Kenyan environmental and social activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai that seeks to encourage leadership and self-development among children and young adults.”

Ms Wathuti has also so far planted more than 30,000 trees in Kenya since 2016 with her goal being to sow seeds of climate consciousness and advocacy in young people.

“Wathuti first developed her passion for the environment as a child growing up in Nyeri, a region of Kenya with one of the country’s largest tree canopies. As she grew older, her appreciation for nature morphed into activism,” they said.

“She revived her high school’s environmental club to learn more about climate change by tracking trends like rain formation using the school’s weather station. And when she graduated from Kenyatta University, Wathuti founded Green Generation Initiative to teach children to ‘clean their own air, grow their own food, and create their own green spaces’—in part by planting trees. A project she says she’s especially proud of is bringing different species of fruit trees to schools in Kenya and encouraging each child to adopt and take care of one,” TIMES100 highlighted.

Wathuti has addressed more than 100 heads of state at COP26 in 2021, detailing how the climate crisis is already exacting a devastating toll on low-income countries and imploring leaders of the developed world to act urgently, Times100 added.

“We are thrilled to honour and recognise the 2023 TIME100 Impact Award winners for their remarkable accomplishments,” said TIME Chief Executive Jessica Sibley on Tuesday while announcing the recipients.

“The TIME100 Impact Awards speak to the heart of our mission at TIME to spotlight the people and ideas that are shaping and improving the world,” said Executive Editor Dan Macsai, who oversees the TIME100 franchise.

She will receive her award during an invite-only award ceremony on September 17 at the National Gallery in Singapore.

An elated Ms Wathuti told the Nation that she hopes to one day be the UN Secretary-General as she believes she can make the greatest impact in that position.

“Africa’s greatest resource is its young people. Seventy percent of the continent is under the age of 30 and these young people are the ones that are driving ideas, creating solutions, and driving innovations on the ground. And it’s the same young people that, if you don’t invest in them, will have to live longer with the consequences of climate inaction,” Ms Wathuti told the Nation while disclosing that she will be travelling to Singapore on Thursday.

“As a young person from Kenya, in Africa, being named one of TIME 100 Impact Awards honorees is a powerful affirmation of the incredible potential within our continent’s youth. It’s a testament to the belief that we, Africa’s young people, hold the key to transformative change. This recognition is not just about me; it’s a spotlight on the energy, innovation, and resilience of a generation determined to shape a brighter future for our communities and the planet,” she added. “Together, we are rewriting the narrative, proving that young voices are not just the future but the driving force of change here and right now.”

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