#HerstoryOfChange – Rivka Meelis 

As an ecofeminist network, we want to provide space for the stories of inspiring champions in the fields of gender equality and the fight against climate change and environmental pollution. We believe that a sustainable future and environment need feminist solutions reflecting the lives of people on the ground. That is why we work on transformative gender equality and women’s human rights in interconnection with sustainable development and climate justice. 

One of these champions is Rivka Meelis 

Rivka is a 16-year-old changemaker living in Leiden, strongly engaged in climate activism on a national and local level. She has been actively involved in Fridays for Future for the past two and a half years, starting a local group in the South of the Netherlands and helping with the organization of national strikes, including the 26th of May Climate Strike in Utrecht. 

There is a high urgency for climate action. The impacts of climate change are intensifying rapidly, making it an unprecedented crisis. Global temperatures are rising, ice caps are shrinking and there is an escalation of natural disasters, all giving clear signs of the urgent need for action. Failure in addressing climate change effectively will have consequences for ecosystems and human well-being, hitting harder women, gender non-conforming people, and marginalized individuals and communities. Raising awareness about the issue and the numerous intersections of social and environmental issues are vital to drive meaningful change. 

Youth awareness and mobilization 

This is why Rivka invests a great amount of energy for youth awareness and mobilization, through small projects, like planting flowers in the city, or through national work. She is also involved in the Climate Academy, where, together with other encouraging activists, she tries to pressure educational institutions to incorporate climate education as a subject in schools.  With her work she has been able to mobilize a lot more people in her city, having high schoolers as the most targeted audience, but she tries to encourage everyone to make a difference and have an impact, even grandparents, who will also give a speech at the Climate Strike on the 26th of May. 

The government is still not doing anything, but I noticed a lot that my friends started becoming active after I became an activist, a lot more people in our city became active and started to learn about the issue, and they themselves also started doing work around it. So, in my environment it had a lot of impact, but the government and international corporations are still doing nothing.’ 

Talking about the strike, she proudly shared that a new feature of this demonstration is the collaboration between many youth organizations, including Fridays for Future Nederland, Youth for Climate, Spun youth, Extinction Rebellion Youth, End Fossil Occupy!, and Students for Future. This is an innovative feature, since it is often the case of having them working on different projects; by joining forces bigger impacts can be created. Furthermore, the choice of the date it is not incidental: it is right before the weekend of the ‘Stop Fossiele Subsidies’ A12 protest in Den Haag.  

We all in the climate movement have the same goal to stop fossil subsidies, but some children cannot participate in the blockade because they think it is scary or their parents won’t allow it. That is why we decided to do the strike and make it accessible for everyone, and still make them have a voice against the fossil companies.’ 

Rivka has been the national coordinator for the organization of the strike; hence she has been in charge of contacting various organizations and local groups in the Netherlands and kept track of everyone’s work to make sure that everything is ready for the upcoming protest.  She has shared that, being sort of new in climate activism, she values the work that people and organizations have already done up until now and recommends everyone to build up on that. 

‘There are already so many documents, contacts, names of organizations which is great to have it and use it, but you have to know where to find it.’ 

Moreover, one of the main challenges for her and her organization is being able to reach out to youth groups that might not have the ability to join in or the energy to be concerned as they have more urgent day-to-day concerns. She explains how the people the organization is able to reach out to include mainly white, upper middle-class individuals, since those with working class backgrounds might not have the energy to focus on climate actions as they need to help their parents provide for a living, making it hard to push climate urgency narratives to a broader, diverse audience. 

Article by Arianna Paterino