Young people are crucial agents of change
Pooja Pokharel is a forestry student and environmental advocate from Nepal. In an interview ahead of the GEF Assembly, she shared her motivations to elevate climate change, gender equality, and social inclusion in forest management, and shared a message for today’s political and business leaders.
What are you focused on?
I am a student pursuing master’s degree in the Faculty of Forestry of Nepal’s Agriculture and Forestry University. My ambition is to work as an expert of climate change, gender equality, and social inclusion in the forestry sector. I am involved in research related to the documentation and preservation of Indigenous and traditional knowledge with regard to forests. I am also engaged in advocacy through several organizations: the UN Convention to Combat Desertification Youth Caucus, the International Forestry Students' Association, CliMates Nepal, and Female Forester Network Nepal. Through these activities I work to support conservation education, sensitization, awareness, and youth empowerment.
What prompted your interest in this field?
I have always loved nature. However, studying forestry marked a pivotal junction in my life and helped me decide to dedicate my life to conservation. Following my passion, I started searching for platform where I could contribute besides my academics. So, my journey of advocacy began through engagement in different organizations. I was involved with climate related organizations and attended events that increased my awareness.
It was after I took a field visit to Nepal’s Dolakha mountainous district that realized how urgently climate change needed to be addressed. While there, I saw many problems caused by climate change, yet found that many local people were unaware of the root cause of their vulnerabilities. This made me even more determined to advocate for and work with people directly experiencing the effects of climate change.
My interest in social justice also reaches deep. I witnessed many different forms of inequality, violence, exclusion, and bias from a young age, and I have long wanted to find a way to support gender equality and social inclusion. These topics are rarely the priority in any agenda and discussion, but I am glad to see that they are increasingly part of the conversation. We need to prioritize discussion and action on gender equality and social inclusion as a core part of our work for a sustainable, resilient, and equitable world.
If you could say one thing to today’s political or business leaders, what would it be?
Empower young people by entrusting them with decision-making responsibilities. They are not only the future – they are crucial agents of change in the present.
Do you have time for other interests or hobbies?
When I am not studying or volunteering, I love reading novels. I get a lot of energy from exploring new places and learning from everyday things.
What are you looking forward to at the GEF Assembly?
I am excited to attend the Seventh GEF Assembly and take part in discussions about how to address global environmental challenges. I am looking forward to actively engaging and sharing my thoughts in this venue, where I anticipate that youth and women will be regarded as key stakeholders with a space at the decision-making table. I also see this as an opportunity to network with like-minded people and environmental leaders from diverse industries, and to learn from their experiences. Overall, I hope to contribute to the discovery of solutions for a healthier planet and a better world.