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  • Climate-Inspo: Philly Teen Rehka Dhillon-Richardson Will Give You Hope Rekha Dhillion-Richardson Full view

    Climate-Inspo: Philly Teen Rehka Dhillon-Richardson Will Give You Hope

    If we’ve learned anything since November 2016, it’s that change can start with everyday citizens. We don’t have to wait for a certain age or moment to make a difference. A local teenager is proving this to us yet again.

    SCH Academy student Rekha Dhillon-Richardson testified to United Nations in Geneva in September. It’s an incredible feat addressing the UN at age 17, but it’s this young rockstar’s second time on the international stage.

    We asked Rekha a few questions about her journey to Geneva, how she got other young women on board and why we should ALL stay optimistic about the future of climate change.

    Q&A with Rekha Dhillon-Richardson

    Interview has been edited for length & clarity

    you’ve created a conference for young women. When did you start the Girls Climate Summit?

    Rekha Dhillon-Richardson: When I entered high school at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the Venture Incubator entrepreneurship program became the perfect opportunity to pursue my passions for environmental advocacy. The program pairs with a mentor to bring an idea to life. I envisioned a one-day, free conference to strengthen knowledge and leadership skills of young, passionate women.

    Although I was aware of the challenges and dedication to create this new event, I believed in the summit’s potential to raise awareness and motivate young girls to take action. These efforts culminated in two Girls Climate Summits  in 2015 and 2016, with a third conference scheduled for April 2017.

    Planning the Girls’ Climate Summit has been a remarkable learning experience. I realized that there were many avenues to disseminate knowledge about climate change and advocate for a more sustainable world.

    In September 2016, I was invited to speak again at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Day of General Discussion on Climate Change) in Geneva, Switzerland.


    Rekha Dhillon-Richardson: I did an internship with the David Suzuki Foundation and Justice for Girls in Canada in 2012. During that internship, I had the opportunity to send a submission to the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    My submission was accepted, and we actually got to travel to Geneva to speak with different global representatives! It was odd because, at Convention on the Rights of the Child, I was one of the only kids! This reality got me thinking and inspired about the role of youth in these huge environmental issues.

    Why was speaking in Geneva was so important?

    Rekha Dhillon-Richardson: I believe it is absolutely crucial that children are actively involved in developing the solution to climate change. It is my generation that will become the lawyers, doctors, politicians, mechanics, scientists, and teachers in future. The fundamental human rights and futures of children are being disproportionately threatened by climate destabilization, even though we have had little to do with producing the problem.

    rekha speaks to UN

    So what did you say to the UN?

    Rekha Dhillon-Richardson I spoke about the impacts of environmental degradation on children’s fundamental human rights, encouraged international officials to set carbon emission reduction standards, and advocated for youth leadership to be central in combating climate change. It was an incredibly humbling opportunity to share my perspective and try to influence our world in real-time.

    (Watch Rehka’s speech on YouTube, starting with her introduction at around 19:30.)

    What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned in your journey?

    Rekha Dhillon-Richardson: I think one of the most crucial lessons is that there is hope. It is hard to not get overwhelmed by all of the corruption, greed, and the looming onset of a climate catastrophe. But, my generation is ready and willing to fight for our human rights and for the rights of our earth. There are positive movements all around the world with dedicated, meaningful action.

    For example, when I looked at the Girls Climate Summit attendees and my youth colleagues in Geneva, I saw unmistakable sparks of passion and inspiration. When you give youth a safe space to voice their perspectives and prioritize their ideas in a real way, magical things can happen. Creative solutions emerge, and we begin to see a different path forward.

    In order to alter the trajectory of climate change, we need everybody to be involved: especially the generation that is going to inherit the consequences of harmful decisions that were made without our authorization.

    Thank you for chatting with us!

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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