Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles on Ken’s interview with Sivendra – part 1 provides some background on Sivendra and his work in Pacific, while part 2 focuses on how Sivendra addresses challenges, why he values networking and collaboration so highly, and what some of his future aspirations are.
How does he overcome challenges?
Sivendra’s road, and the road followed by many other young climate change activists in Fiji and across the Pacific, has not been plain sailing and there have been multiple challenges across the journey. Being persistent and remaining true to yourself is vitally important. At the same time, recognizing and respecting differences are important “as it brings together different people with different experiences, skills and ideas, which we as young people can learn from.”
“Acknowledging that ‘change can happen through us, and not just to us’ has been fundamental to Sivendra’s approach when setting up new campaigns and adaptation and mitigation projects. At first getting local buy-in and funding was not easy, and he “had to use international success and impact stories to get initial funding.”
Also key to his successes has been “approaching local delivery partners for partnership in the very initial stages” of a new campaign or initiative. Today, Sivendra works with 41 partners across 10 Pacific countries, but to get the early funding and support he acknowledges that, “Most times, I had to ask global partners for funding grants to start projects in Fiji, which later were supported by local community organisations and growing.”
The importance of young people
As it is our future, Sivendra likes to point out the importance of young people being involved in decision-making processes. Concerned about “young people being used in a tokenistic manner” he suggests, “this is why we are so deliberate in choosing which spaces to engage in, because we want to ensure that our values as Pacific Islands are upheld.” He intends to continue campaigning and engaging with young people to ensure the youth are more recognized and have a greater say.
To overcome the lack of influence that the youth (may) have he promotes continued activism and understanding of the issues at hand. Sivendra believes that “to overcome this, we as young people will continue to push boundaries and make our voices heard as it is our generation and the generations to come that are at risk.”
Why is collaboration and networking so important?
Sivendra credits networking as key to his success. He says, “without networks and relationships the movements by young people will not be as strong as they are now and continue to empower, and inspire.”
Representing Fiji, and young people, on the international stage also affords Sivendra an opportunity to network and build up awareness and support. Over the last two years, for example, he has been involved with the Youth Observer Constituency of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (YOUNGO) and participated at the World Climate Change Conference and other pre-meetings. “In these spaces,” Sivendra notes, “the key objective is to ensure that voices of young people are heard and included not only in negotiation text but also outside these spaces.”
In addition, he was selected in the inaugural class of Fiji’s 30 under 30, as one of 100 Young Global Changers and is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society. While not seeking individual recognition, Sivendra feels passionately about using the recognition he has received for engaging with others, increasing the impact of his initiatives, and generally raising awareness about important climate change issues.
What’s next for Sivendra?
As a prominent young climate change warrior providing inspiration and support across the Pacific, Sivendra has recently participated in the Pacific Climate Warriors Inaugural Summit held in Nadi, Fiji. The Warriors’ message is, “We are not drowning. We are fighting” and together they want smaller, less economically powerful nations, and their peoples, to be able to have a say when it comes to climate change and their futures (#haveyoursei). “My purpose here,” he says, “is to share my climate activism journey and draw inspiration from the wealth of knowledge to continue.”
Beyond representing Fiji on the international arena, Sivendra intends to continue his role in the Active Citizen’s initiative. His objectives are to “upscale through the inclusion of other partners” and to see the “program taken up by universities as an introduction course.”
Ultimately though Sivendra believes that local-level, grassroots actions and campaigns will have the biggest positive impacts on climate change. “I still believe,” he acknowledges, “that my purpose is to give back to the communities that gave me everything. In the Pacific, they say that it takes a community to bring up a child and as their child, I want to be their voice.”
To learn more about Sivendra contact him on [email protected].