Climate Action

8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam demands climate action — just don’t call her the Greta of India

No one is too young to make a difference.

That’s the theme behind today’s youth climate movement, and one that 8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam has taken to heart.

Licypriya, a youth climate activist from India, has campaigned for climate action in India for the last two years. Initially motivated by natural disasters, like the deadly earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015, Licypriya began her climate crusade at age 6, attending the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference of Disaster Risks Reduction.

“I cry when I see children losing their parents and people becoming homeless due to the danger of disasters,” said Licypriya, in an email to Earth Day Network. “My heart feels sorrow for people who can’t help themselves when disaster strikes.”

In July 2018, Licypriya founded her own organization, The Child Movement, to enact climate law in India that protects the rights of children and creates resiliency in disaster. In February 2019, she began striking outside of India’s parliament.

Licypriya leads a rural climate strike in October 2019. Photo courtesy: Licypriya Kangujam

Since starting The Child Movement, Licypriya has traveled to more than 32 countries and spoken at various conferences, including the United Nations’ 25th Conference of Parties (COP25). That platform thrust Licypriya into the international spotlight. It also inspired a label the outspoken 8 year old takes issue with: “the Greta of India.”

Frustrated with the moniker, Licypriya recently took to Twitter, writing “If you call me the Greta of India, you are not covering my story,” referring to 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who many consider the face of the youth climate movement.

“I think such news headlines are not fair,” said Licypriya. “[These headlines] delete [other youth activists’] unique stories, identit[ies], names and movements.”

Licypriya’s own focus is on her home country of India, which is the fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change. As the world warms, climate-fueled extreme weather events will increase in magnitude and frequency. To fight this, we need “change from grassroots to global levels,” said Licypriya.

Licypriya speaks at the United Nations’ COP25 in Madrid. Photo courtesy: Licypriya Kangujam

Licypriya is campaigning for a nationwide climate law that will “bring transparency and accountability to our leaders.”

“Climate change will have deep economic and social impacts,” she said. “To this end, the government should… transform India into a sustainable, low-carbon, high-impact economy.”

Licypriya is also focusing on education. Following Italy’s announcement to require climate education in schools — making it the first country to do so — Licypriya lobbied state governments in India to do the same. The governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat have confirmed and will implement mandatory climate education for the 2020-21 school year, making them the first states in Asia to bring this change.

Licypriya has been awarded the World Children Peace Prize, as well as the India Peace Prize. In 2019, Earth Day Network named her a Rising Star for her efforts, which have a “tremendous positive impact on Earth and are indeed shining examples for all to follow.”

Licypriya strikes outside India’s parliament in New Delhi. Photo courtesy: Licypriya Kangujam

“Our Rising Star initiative commends youth who have done remarkable work to ensure a greener, cleaner and less polluted Earth — Licypriya Kangujam aptly fits that category,” said Karuna Singh, Earth Day Network’s regional director of Asia. “From the age of just 7 years, she has raised her voice for action for a more sustainable environment.”

Children are the ones who will have to deal with the disastrous effects of climate change, as the planet heats up 2–5 degrees Celsius in the next several decades. And to Licypriya, children have the voice and the power to stand up to do something about it.

“Age doesn’t matter to make a difference,” said Licypriya. “I am a girl child. I am brave, strong, smart and intelligent. When children raise their voices for the issues that affect them… another world is possible, and change is possible.”