Scaling Up Fridays for Future outside Accra
Perk is a graphic designer from Ghana who serves as national coordinator for the Ghana Young Environment Movement (GYEM) in his activist time. In 2019, he was extremely active organising and mobilising young people in Accra as part of the global climate strike #FridaysForFuture. The GYEM aims to raise awareness about the need for all citizens to act in protection of the environment and future generations and to demand to the government to act in alignment to its promises to protect the right to life of all Ghanaians. From this experience, Perk realised the importance of including young people outside the capital to join this global conversation. In 2020, he led a national training programme called the Ghana Youth Environment Programme (GYEP) with the purpose of leveraging the power of the largest group of Ghanaian population – the under 25-year-olds. The programme seeks to increase young people’s knowledge and skills to organise, mobilise and speak up for a sustainable economy and political model in Ghana. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Perk had to embrace one of the biggest challenges in Ghana and in many countries in the global South, the digital divide. Access to telecommunications and reliable electricity sources is a daily barrier for all people, but especially youth. With the extra US$2,000 provided by the Lab to support digital transitions, Perk secured a fibre-optic internet connection and a Zoom licence for the entire year, which allowed him to run virtual training workshops. Of course, it took time for Perk to adjust his plans, establish new ways of working and set up virtual connections with the 281 young people all across Ghana who signed up for the trainings. Finally, in August 2020 the training started using a low-zero data cost model in which all trainings were recorded on Zoom and broadcasted using Facebook live, which is free to connect to in Ghana and does not require Wi-Fi or data. Even with these technical challenges, in just six months, 31 of the 281 GYEP training participants had demonstrated sufficient commitment to the programme to transition into the Steering Group – the group dedicated to guide the strategic direction of GYEP. The flexibility of the offerings of the Youth Action Lab allowed Perk to have enough time to re-strategize, to access technical resources that were crucial to close a digital gap that divides many of people, and to prove that environmental knowledge and advocacy skills are accessible to under 25-year-old Ghanaians outside the capital. Perk´s leadership in testing a new format of delivering trainings indicates that there are new possibilities to scale the programme, so more young people across the country can be ambassadors for good environmental protection practices in their communities and climate advocates.
“My experience with GYEM has impacted me with a lot of skills and knowledge dealing with environment issues and…the way I think about the environment around me has changed and the way I react to environment issues. I think we need a lot of organisations like GYEM in Ghana.” - GYEP 2020 participant.
Richard Edem Pomeyie
Movement: Fridays for Future Ghana
Organisation: The Ghana Environmental Movement
As the National Coordinator of The Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM), Perk works to empower young people to take action and respond to environmental issues in their communities through the Ghana Young Environmentalist Programme (GYEP). In 2019, Perk mobilized young people in Ghana to join the global climate strikes as part of the Fridays for Future mobilizations.
As part of his work with youth in Ghana, Perk saw it fit to assist GYEP to train promising grassroots activists between the ages of 15-30 years from each of the 16 regions of Ghana. They are being empowered with the tools, techniques and technology to self- organise and start a movement in their communities while building alliances with other activists and groups to strengthen their voice. Through this, the youth climate movement in Ghana seeks to gain extensive coverage in every part of the country, reaching and supporting groups and communities in every nook and cranny of Ghana to run campaigns that raise awareness from the bottom to the top.
Ghana currently faces a host of environmental problems such as deforestation, land degradation, water pollution, poor sanitation and waste management practices and climate crisis. Climate change, especially, is affecting the country’s agricultural productivity and food security, vital water resources and energy supply. Young people, women and children are the most vulnerable and are hard hit by the impact of these crises. Therefore, Ghanaian youth are creating and (re) claiming civil spaces to take action on the environment and the GYEP provides the platform to do just that.
“Using your skills or talents to mobilise for change that impacts today and future generations exudes the true spirit of activism.”