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Encouraging youth to care more for the environment
This is the third piece in a four-part series featuring the voices of young community leaders from Madagascar. Fisherwoman Yolande Soamihaja describes her journey as she inspires fellow youth to take on more responsibility.
Josephine, Landry, Yolande and Gorettie are young leaders who live in Tsimipaika Bay in northwest Madagascar and are part of youth groups that provide training on environmental and community health. They then share what they learn about sustainable management of fisheries and mangroves with other community members, especially fellow youth, women, and small-scale fishers.
Yolande SOAMIHAJA, 33, Ambiky village, fisher
Being part of my village youth group over the past four years has increased my knowledge about environmental and community health issues and opened my mind to new topics beyond my daily life and experience. I learnt to pass on what I got to know to other community members but realised that the young people in my village found it more difficult to access information than youth living in cities. This encouraged me to organise information sessions, even when challenging, in the hope that each generation can educate future generations about the importance of protecting nature and their health.
I am a community health worker who has volunteered for over 10 years to care for children and pregnant women. During this time, I have gained a lot of experience looking after children under five years of age, and this work also helps me with my family. Last year, the USAID Mahefa Miaraka health programme invited me to the city of Antsiranana to speak about my experience. I was recognised for my work at a ceremony and given a bicycle which is a great source of pride.
Today, I am the board secretary of my village’s mangrove and fisheries management association (VOI) and vice-secretary of the Miaramientagna Federation, which brings together Tsimipaika bay’s 12 VOIs. I am always ready to take on any new responsibilities I can. When I’m old, I will tell my children, grandchildren and even more people about what I have achieved! I hope my village will have developed by then and that there will be more solid and permanent buildings.
In the meantime, my message to the youth is: dare to take responsibility locally and speak up in public because you can’t exercise leadership if you don’t know how to use your voices.
By Felantsoa Ainamahafaly, National Technical Advisor for Education