We need to hear children’s voices when adapting to climate change

“It is very important for people to know about climate change because it will matter to their survival in the coming days,” says DJ Wena, aged 12, from a small village in the Philippines. She is one of the main anchors of a local radio program called Voice of the Youth, Sound of the Truth. It is a weekly children’s radio program on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. While many initiatives linking radio and climate change focus on information to farmers, this program is targeted to children, by children to promote the engagement of children through their sharing of information.

Communities across the globe are already experiencing the effects of extreme weather events and unpredictable variations in seasonal weather, with poor communities, women, children and marginalised groups disproportionately affected. The perspectives of children within the field of climate change adaptation have remained largely sidelined and yet, as a recent report from Plan International and Save the Children illustrates, children’s needs, voices and capacities can and should be heard in our efforts to adapt. This will ultimately lead to long term, more robust community and political frameworks and solutions to tackle the impacts of climate change.

Child-centred community based adaptation arises from a child-rights approach. It seeks to ensure the concerns and priorities of children and youth are heard in decision-making around climate change adaptation. It is an approach that works with children and young people to facilitate their understanding of climate change, drawing on their voices and empowering them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to catalyse action at home, at school and in the community. As communities in the Philippines experience the increasing impacts of climate change, innovative methods of advocacy and action that harness the voices of children are being explored. Community radio connects local communities with climate change information through a low cost and accessible medium and empowers children and youth.

There are more examples of child-centred community based adaptation where children design, implement and monitor adaptation actions appropriate for their age and context. These range from planting vegetable gardens at school — where the profits from selling harvests were channelled back to the children’s climate clubs to fund further actions, to mangrove or tree planting to protecting waterfront structures from floods and storms. Children are working with adults and their municipal governments on improved waste disposal systems. They are conducting education and community outreach, based on the improved knowledge, understanding and resources they gained through the projects.

Through her participation, DJ Wena has built her confidence in public speaking and leading important conversations around climate change. “This radio program changed me a lot. I’m a completely different child now. I was too shy and timid before. I was literally trembling during my first time holding and speaking into a microphone,” she says. “But now, my confidence has really soared! I can write my scripts and run it on air! I have realised that radio is a useful tool to educate my friends and their families in the community on climate change and disasters. People can hear the radio even if the electricity is out.”

Climate change is an issue of inter-generational justice. Children are least responsible for its causes and yet will bear the brunt of future impacts. Today’s children form one of the most vulnerable groups exposed to the impacts of climate variability, but they are also the adults of the future. Engaging with them now helps to safeguard all our futures.


Written by: Pia Treichel, Program Manager Climate Change Adaptation – Plan International Australia and Corinne Schoch, Climate Change Advisor – Save the Children.