‘Children area priority,not achoice’ MeetMaya-Natuk, GreenlandicChildren’s Rightsand ClimateActivist

My name is Maya-Natuk. I am 16 years old, and I come from Greenland. I am a climate change and child rights activist. In Greenland, I am known for speaking up for children’s rights regarding sexual abuse, abuse of drugs or alcohol, and other types of violence against children. I also have a focus on climate change and how it affects children and their rights in Greenland. I started noticing how often child rights were being violated in my country when I was 14 years old. Since then, I have worked to improve how adults listen to children’s voices – especially those whose rights have not been met. I represent children, especially those who are indigenous, disabled, abused, or have experienced discomfort for who they are. Every child who has experienced discrimination of culture, race, sex, religion, disability, gender or for just being a child, has the right to seek help and immediately be prioritised.

No matter who you are and where you are from, you can always make a change.

I was born in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with only 56,000 citizens. In such a big country with such a small number of habitants, there aren’t many resources and tools to assist us when it comes to improving the human rights situation and addressing environmental damage. We have such an impressive amount of land that is in fact just covered by about 80% ice. This ice is melting extremely quickly and affecting so many people – not just in Greenland, but all over the world. We do not have the tools to stop or slow this down. So, what we do is spread the news out to every world corner we can because this issue will affect everyone massively if it continues at the current speed.

Making Children’s and Young People’s Voices Heard

I have participated in many climate change projects to gain and share knowledge about the consequences that are happening in Greenland as well as around the world. I started my activism as part of a community group. I met children who are scared of what’s happening with climate change. They feel unsafe. And that’s because they really aren’t safe. Because of the permafrost, houses get damaged. Because of the change in weather, and of-course our Greenlandic ice that is melting, the animals change locations. Many people live off hunting or fishing, so it affects people’s income and therefore the children too.

I knew then that I needed to focus on the national level when it came to getting heard by the public eye and not just in my community. I joined Nakuusa, an organisation focused on children’s participation to advise the ministers in Greenland of what they need to change to better the rights of the child. I was then asked to represent Greenland in UNICEF Denmark.

Building a healthier future together for all

Most recently, I became part of a Children’s Advisory Team to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to help them with the development of General Comment No. 26. We are all aged 11-17 years old and have had a lot of experience with the devastating development of the climate changes in our countries. Our meetings are a safe place to speak our minds and be heard and respected for our voices and what we choose to stand for.

Earlier this month, the GC26 Children’s Advisory Team was invited to present a statement at the opening of the Committee’s 92nd session at Palais Wilson, Geneva to talk about the role of the Child Advisors in the GC26 and the importance of child participation across the UN.  I was invited to make a speech to share my story and represent children all around the world. I then introduced these video messages from other Child Advisors in the team about the importance of child participation in this General Comment.

I really loved speaking with the Committee and everyone else there – they all seemed so invested in making a change for children, with children. This General Comment has involved of thousands of children worldwide in its development and to me, this is so important. As I said in my message to the Committee:

“You need children’s participation to exactly tell you how we feel and what we need from you. This includes us as Child Advisors and all the thousands of children taking part in the consultations all over the world. Only this will give you a General Comment that stands so true to us children. A General Comment that the world can take and say, “The following decisions we cannot make because it would negatively affect the children.” That’s the difference I hope the General Comment will make.”

Find out more about the Children’s Advisory Team for General Comment 26 and how children and young people can have their say in the global consultations. You can also write to Katie Reid to learn more about children’s participation in General Comment No. 26: k.reid@tdh.de

Maya-Natuk is a Child Advisor to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for General Comment No. 26.