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Meet the Greta Thunberg’s of the Middle East fighting against climate change

Discover how the youth of today is standing up against climate change to build a better future.

Climate Change

The global face of environmental activism is undoubtedly Greta Thunberg. A teen that stood up against some of the world’s most powerful leaders and institutions to demand immediate action for climate change mitigation. A kid, that shook the world to its core for the shock value of having to stand up for what’s right that previous generations failed to do.

In less than 5 years, the 19-year-old has gone from holding solitary protests to being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. A youngster with grit and passion that was able to do more for climate change awareness versus what environmentalists have been advocating for their whole lives.

It’s not just in Europe that teenagers are taking a stance and fighting back; in the Middle East and North Africa, young people are changing the landscape of climate change activism by proving age is just a number when it comes to fighting for their future.

Meet the climate change activists in the Middle East

Sagarika Sriram, UAE

Sagarika Sriram has become a household name in the UAE among environmental enthusiasts who have dubbed her “the Greta Thunberg of the Middle East.” The Dubai resident’s activism started at the age of 10 when she began to understand the danger the planet was in. Horrific images of animals trapped and living amongst discarded plastics from human waste emotionally propelled the Emirati teen to kickstart Kids For A Better World.

Kids For A Better World is a non-profit organization dedicated to community involvement projects focused on recycling waste materials from plastics to paper in order to be proactive in solving climate change crises. The aim is to educate other young people about environmental issues as well as listing facts regarding pollution. Kids For a Better World also offers tips on how young people can be more sustainable and encourages them to carry out certain activities in return for points. These points can be redeemed for eco-friendly rewards—including organic beauty products and toiletries made at home by Sriram and a group of other students.

Abdul Muqeet, UAE

The Abu Dhabi resident, Abul Muqeet is one of the UAE’s longest child activists against climate change. Known to many as The Paper Bag Boy, Muqeet started his journey at the age of 8 years old when he learned the harmful environmental repercussions of utilizing plastic bags. His passion for environmental causes derived from when his school marked its environmental day, and the theme was “no plastic bags.”

The shock propelled Muqeet sprung into action by delivering self-made paper bags to grocery stores around his neighborhood. The bags were initially made from Gulf News newspapers and quickly caught the community’s attention. Now at the age of 18, Muqeet is studying Computer Engineering and continues his endeavors to promote climate change and fight for a greener future.

Green Ghaya, UAE

Green Ghaya is a 9-year-old Emirati with big dreams to change the environmental landscape of the UAE. Her strong will, determination, and passion for green living have caused quite a stir in the region as the youth activist has won numerous green awards, featured on TV as well as at numerous conventions.

Ghaya is a force to be reckoned with, as she has become a leader for younger and older generations to look up to for her continuous community involvement projects, awareness campaigns, and proactive mindset. Already having achieved so much at the age of 9, we cannot wait to see what else she would do to initiate a stop towards climate change for a greener future for the kids in the Middle East.

Joelle Zgheib, Lebanon

Joelle Zgheib, might be much older than the other environmental youth leaders we have listed so far, but she is far more outspoken and driven with passion than anyone else we have encountered thus far.

The Lebanese climate change activist began her journey back in school when she noticed everyone had plastic water bottles, but no one was recycling them—even though bins for plastic were available. Zgheid highlighted that in the Middle East, especially Lebanon where people are struggling to survive, there’s a lack of environmental education.

In an effort to initiate change, Zgheib began collecting plastic bottles herself and working with a local environmental organization to recycle them. Zgheib’s activism went a step further when one day she was scrolling on Instagram and Extinction Rebellion popped up on her feed. Extinction Rebellion, the leaderless environmental movement founded in the UK, has become famous for its headline-grabbing acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Activists in Europe have protested semi-naked in public places, glued themselves to buses and trains, and blocked traffic in city centers.

After contacting the movement they suggested she start a Lebanese branch. She was put in touch with another student interested in Extinction Rebellion named Rami, and together the two set about establishing a local group.

So far Extinction Rebellion Lebanon is focused on raising awareness in the Middle East regarding the persisting crisis not only the country is facing, but the world in general through some of the region’s largest group protests focused on climate change.

Lina Al-Tarawneh, Qatar

Lina Al-Tarawneh is a Qatari environmental activist who began her journey toward climate education when she first-handedly discovered some of her country’s beautiful landscapes filled with plastic waste.

At the age of 15, Lina began to raise awareness in her community about plastic pollution and the importance of protecting the mangroves, going to schools to give talks on the subject. With the help of community funding programs and the increasing rise of awareness, Lina currently has a non-profit organization called Green Mangroves.

Green Mangroves is an educational climate change tour, that takes you through the beautiful mangrove landscapes, dedicated to raising awareness of regional environmental issues threatening some of the natural wonders of Qatar. The tours are deliberately educational but also fun. As Al-Tarawneh says, “people cannot protect what they do not love.”

So far the future of the Middle East and its natural landscapes are in good hands, as the kids of today are fighting a nail-biting battle to promote a better life for tomorrow.

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