Hello everyone, it’s Zainab here, welcome or welcome back to the blog! I’m sure many of you have heard about the devastating floods going on in Pakistan at the moment, all caused by the climate crisis that’s been occurring for years. I wanted to do something to shine a spotlight on this issue, and I thought rather than just writing a post based on news reports, I thought it would be more effective to speak to someone who is experiencing this first-hand at the moment.
So today, I’ve had the honour of interviewing teen Pakistani climate activist, Rida Rashid, who will speaking all about what she’s seeing first-hand, sharing ways to help, sharing why this is actually happening and more. (If you’re interested in only reading a specific part of the interview, then use the list of contents below.) Let’s jump into the interview!
- INTRODUCTION TO RIDA
- THE PAKISTAN FLOODS
- FLOOD RELIEF
- ORGANISATIONS SUPPORTING THE PAKISTAN FLOODS
- THE IMPACT RIDA WANTS TO MAKE
- THE VOICE OF YOUNG PEOPLE
- THE FUTURE FOR RIDA AND PAKISTAN
- RIDA’S LINKS
INTRODUCTION TO RIDA
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Rida. For anyone that doesn’t know who you are, could you give a brief introduction to yourself and your work?
My name is Rida Rashid and I’m a 19 year old climate activist based in Pakistan, and I’m the founder of the non profit organisation: Impact. Which is working on adaptation to climate change with a team of over 300 students across Pakistan. And I’ve been doing climate activism for the last nine years, which means I was very young when I started! And I’m also a part of many national youth panels on climate change. So, I’m doing my A-Levels and climate activism, and that’s it!
THE PAKISTAN FLOODS
Currently the situation in Pakistan is terrible, over a ⅓ is underwater, considering you are from Pakistan can you just describe the current situation in Pakistan? What are people waking up to, what’s on the national news etc. Please give us the breakdown.
Honestly speaking, I’ve lost quite a lot of extended family members due to these floods and the floods in 2010. So, the situation right now: 1/3 of Pakistani land is underwater right now, we’ve lost 1,300 lives out of which 33.3% were children. And we’ve lost 500,000 livestock, 150+ land roots have been washed away, hundreds of bridges and thousands kilometres of roads have been destroyed – displacing around 37 million people which is more than the population of Canada or Australia. And this has caused the loss of $10 billion to Pakistan’s economy right now, there is more to come.
That’s really upsetting and crazy that situations like these have happened for so long, and only now are starting to get recognition. So, could you explain the cause behind this, we know it’s happening but why exactly is it happening to Pakistan? Especially considering that Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of global emissions.
Definitely, I mean Pakistan is suffering basically due to it’s geographical location. There is no doubt about it, I mean my country is home to 7000+ glaciers, which is the highest outside the polar region, and they are melting at a very fast pace.
But at this point, with these recent floods, it’s a bit complicated. So, Pakistan this summer had temperatures going over 53°C, and that was the highest global temperature ever recorded. So, in science, warm air holds more moisture, and as it comes down, it’s damaging. And as glaciers are melting this is adding to the factors.
However, another added reason to this is lack of governance. After the 2010 floods, there was literally no plan devised (or even if there was, there was no implementation.) There is no transparency or accountability, which is needed in order to create a climate-resilient society, and we fail to do so.
So yes, while climate change has a large part to play in this, I think government incompetency has a bigger role right now with these floods.
Considering you’ve lived there and have had these lived experiences, how do you feel about how it’s being dealt with and the climate crisis in the rest of the world?
I think that we are not taking it seriously, after the climate movement that started globally, leaders said that they cared about it, but they don’t. Even in Pakistan, the government does not care.
I mean, we need to take it more seriously and take action. For them, it might just be promises and commitments, but for me, my country is underwater. We used to have four seasons a year, and now we just go from Summers to Winters.
For me personally, it feels very depressing and frightening and I feel that we need urgent action.
Speaking of action, how are residents and also the government in Pakistan dealing with this? What’s being done within the country?
Yes, there are NGOs and the people of Pakistan are very generous and have been donating to them. And all the relief work being carried out on the ground has been through NGOs.The government are not that active. The only relief has been provided by NGOs, non profits or the Pakistani army – they have been working really hard for this.
You’ve spoken about how long it’s taken for people to realise or provide relief, so why do you think it’s taken a while to realise this is a humanitarian issue rather than an individualist issue?
Yeah exactly, for me, climate change is no longer just weather events. It is our right to education, life, security, freedom and even food that’s being taken away right now!
I don’t know, I feel like we need to go back to our roots and see where everything went wrong and then fix it – because I don’t see what took us so long to make us realise that this is a humanitarian crisis
I know you said it’s going to cost over $10 billion. So could you share what people like me in the rest of the world can do to help Pakistan right now?
First things first, individual donations do work. You can donate to multiple organisations that work on the ground in Pakistan. And apart from this, once we’ve recovered, I’d really like citizens from other countries to be global activists and raise their voice about countries like mine. So, I want more people to talk about climate change, not just mitigation but urgent action.
ORGANISATIONS SUPPORTING THE PAKISTAN FLOODS
- Impact Pakistan (Rida’s Organisation)
- Islamic Relief
- Penny Appeal
- Muslim Aid
- Global Giving
- The Hope Appeal
THE IMPACT RIDA WANTS TO MAKE
You’re also the founder of Impact Pakistan, could you share a bit about Impact Pakistan and it’s cause?
Impact Pakistan is basically a group of children, we hold conversations around climate change and then we do projects around adaptation to climate change. Before these floods happened, we were working with the government of Pakistan on multiple policies, the water policy and other environment-related policies. For example, the plastic bag ban. So, we were trying to make sure that the policies that were already in place were implemented.
I mean, we started from planting trees and now we’re working on policy implementation. So, Impact Pakistan is a group of children working hard on policies and and also action on ground aswell.
Speaking of working on the ground, how does it make you feel knowing that it’s up to students/young people have to raise their voices now?
My mother’s village is underwater, so I do know that it’s really difficult. We are out of school, the schools in Balochistan are closed – it’s only Islamabad and some parts of Punjab that are still remaining where students are going to the schools. So, we’re out of school all year round because of climate change while advocating for it. Honestly, it’s painful. It’s not something we should be doing.
I’m so sorry to hear that, everyone deserves the right to education and it’s terrible it’s being taken away. Since you you founded the organisation: Impact Pakistan, what is the exact impact it strives to give Pakistan is this current period of time?
Alright, we are currently focusing on flood relief. But apart from that, we are focusing on rehabilitation from the floods from the damage done.
Impact Pakistan wants to be an organisation where we involve youth in: policy making, implementation of policies and we make sure the youth has a role to play in all decisions that are made.
So in terms of working on ground and with policy making, I really want Impact Pakistan to lead on this.
THE VOICE OF YOUNG PEOPLE
I’m sure it will grow to that! For any young person that wants to make a difference like this, all around the world, what advice would you give them? How can they get started and make their voices heard?
I’ll share this with you, when I started nine years ago (I was around 10 or 11) it was difficult, it’s not easy – even right now. But, you should never give up, you should keep raising your voice. There are multiple groups you can join, look at Fridays For Future! Just use your social media to raise your voice.
Write about it, speak about it – raise your voice. It matters, and it will be heard. Because we are the future and now we need to hold people accountable.
I love the idea of using your passions! What do you think is the importance of young people having a voice/perspective on policy making all throughout the world?
I mean, we are the future. We are being affected. So, we are the best people to tell people how we want our future to look. So, youth should be given importance in policy making, everywhere around the globe. And people deciding our future, without us, doesn’t seem right.
I completely agree with you, have you ever been in meetings where you were the only young person in the room? Was it scary or intimidating?
Yeah, I’ve been in meetings where I’ve been the youngest person. It’s scary, but the fact that people in power think you’re a child and that your voice doesn’t matter – it took me a lot of time to make them realise that my voice matters and they should be listening. And now they do listen, it took me 9 years!
Yeah, I mean we have to do it as nobody else will do it for young people! You’ve obviously got your own organisations such as Impact, Project Aab, Fridays for Future & more! So, do you have any advice for young people wanting to start their own organisations?
For anyone that wants to start their own organisation in Pakistan or abroad, it’s about having the passion. Do not give up, it’s going to be difficult. It’s not easy to organise and lead a team all while facing the pressure. But it’s important that you don’t give up.
I’d say set up a social media, start it yourself (for the first three years I did everything myself. Graphic design, social media, collaborations etc!) And then when people see you doing it, they will want to join in and it will keep getting bigger.
And then it becomes a team effort! So how does it feel to lead a team as big as the one you do for Impact Pakistan?
Honestly speaking, it’s scary at times because you have responsibilities. You’re their voice and you’re leading them and representing them. So, it’s not easy leading a team, but I’m lucky enough to have this opportunity. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!
THE FUTURE FOR RIDA AND PAKISTAN
I’ll end like this, what kind of future do you envision for Pakistan, and just the Earth’s climate as a whole?
One positive thing that’s happened because of these floods is that conversation has started. So, in Pakistan’s future, I really want the government to be transparent and bring accountability and put a system in place that can actually adapt to climate change.
What about yourself, once this situation hopefully ends do you have any future campaigns/projects planned?
Yes, I have a lot of projects planned. Through Project Aab, we were supposed to install filtration plants across Punjab to provide people with clean drinking water – so I’ll be working on that. And again, policy making and also making Pakistani climate activism active internationally aswell. Because I don’t see Pakistani activists given opportunities internationally. For example, at COP there were only 3 NGOs sending their representatives there so I really want to see youth at conferences like this!
Do you see yourself as an activist your whole life or would you want to go into the political field?
Yeah, I’ll definitely be going into politics. I was a child when I started this so my brain has been so emotionally involved that until I see everything fixed, I’m just not stopping. So, I think I’ll be getting a degree in political sciences or journalism and then pursuing a career in politics.
I think that was the best way to end off! Thank you so much for reading this interview, please go check out Rida’s links below to learn more about her and the incredible work she does. Also, please consider the causes I listed previously in the post for the Pakistan floods! If you’d like more information, you can contact with Rida and I’d also recommend this really informative article from the BBC. . Let me know in the comments what you found most interesting from this interview!
- Rida’s Instagram
- Rida’s LinkedIn
- Rida’s Twitter
- Impact Pakistan (Rida’s Organisation)
- Fridays For Future Pakistan (Rida’s Co-Founded Organisation)
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