A young activist fighting for the future

“Standing in the crowd was not enough,” says Nabilah Chowdhury, winner of Canon Young Champion of the Year. She shares her inspiring activism story.
A young woman in glasses and a dark blue headscarf stands at a lectern, speaking into microphones. Behind her are the high-backed leather benches of parliament, filled with other young people
Nabilah Chowdhury

Written by Nabilah Chowdhury

Young Climate Activist and Winner of Canon Young Champion of the Year at the Global Good Awards

Australia-based climate activist, Nabilah Chowdhury is the 2022 Under 21 winner of the Canon Young Champion of the Year category at the Global Good Awards. As well as her work advocating for campaigns such as School Strike 4 Climate Action and #FundOurFutureNotGas, she has been an active volunteer at Taronga Zoo’s YATZ (Youth At The Zoo) programme for the past five years and is passionate about wildlife and conservation.

“We immediately recognised Nabilah as a Young Champion for her commitment to climate action and nature conservation,” says Louise O’Driscoll, Sustainability Communications Specialist. “As a campaigner and United Nations Youth Delegate, she’s volunteered her time to be part of the conversation around climate change and has demonstrated great care and compassion, which shines through in her personality. When we met to record a video about her journey, it was clear that she wants to make a change in the world and is the kind of person who will stand up for what she believes in and inspire others to do the same.” Louise asked Nabilah to tell us about what her activism means to her and how it has shaped her young life.

“I grew up inspecting leaves and beetles in East London, constantly learning about the natural environment around me – which wasn’t much, honestly. However, the little balcony in our apartment was truly my space, with what felt like hundreds of vegetables and fruits like strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and so many more. In 2014 we moved to Australia, and I began to see more wildlife and animals than ever. It constantly shocked me to see the vast number of animals. In 2017, my passion really turned into a reality when I became a youth volunteer member at Taronga Zoo. It wasn’t long before I became a leader.

A young bespectacled woman in a peach-coloured headscarf and glasses laughs with her eyes scrunched shut.

“As a campaigner and United Nations Youth Delegate, she’s volunteered her time to be part of the conversation around climate change and has demonstrated great care and compassion, which shines through in her personality.”

From as far as I can remember I have always been going to protests, but in 2018 I attended a school strike, learning about other people's experience with climate change, not realising how severe the consequences truly were. I realised standing in the crowd was not enough, so I joined School Strike 4 Climate Sydney (SS4C). I soon became an organiser, contributing a lot of my time to the cause and learning more along the way. The following year I became a United Nations Youth Delegate. I did this really to understand why global leaders haven't done much about the climate crisis. It also taught me how international government organisations like the UN bring climate change to the global stage.

That same year, I truly learnt about the effects of climate change when Australia faced devastating bushfires. Thankfully, I live in an area of Sydney that was spared, but like much of Australia, I was shocked that while my friend’s home’s were burnt down, and people were losing their jobs that we had no leadership. The people of Australia banded together to help those affected and at the age of 15, I felt like I was doing more than the decision makers. I volunteered to work on a hotline and helped organise a donation drive to those who were affected. I also participate in other extracurricular activities. Last year, I joined the National Young Leadership Council for the Jane Goodall Institute and continue to be involved with climate activism through SS4C. I contribute to the Inner-west Sydney Young Leader Democracy Group, which pushes for environmental change in our local government.

Four people stand side by side: a man, dressed in black. A woman in a striped sweater, holding a certificate. A bespectacled young woman in a peach headscarf and yellow sweater, and a long-haired young woman in a black business suit. She holds a box for a Canon EOS 250D camera.

L-R: Adam Pensotti, Head of Canon EMEA’s Young People Programme, Karen Sutton, Founder of the Global Good Awards, Nabilah Chowdhury and Louise O’Driscoll, Sustainability Communications Specialist, Canon EMEA.

Youth advocacy is really important to me and in order to really push the importance of climate action on a state and amplifying young voices, I am part of the NSW EPA Environment Youth Advisory Council. Being a youth activist is about speaking up for what you believe in – especially to the decision makers who hold our futures in their hands. We should be uplifting the voices of those who are and will be most affected by climate change – such as young people, people of colour and First Nation communities. Bringing these voices to the global stage and in front of world leaders means an international awareness of what will happen if we put money before climate. For many it can mean homelessness.

This is why young people's voices must always be heard in issues that concern us and our future. After all, young people and children make up over 40% of the world's population, so it is essential that our opinions are acknowledged, because policies and decisions today directly affect us as we inherit the future. We are strong, knowledgeable, and committed change-makers, so the inclusion of our opinions in decision-making processes is not only morally appropriate, but also strategically wise, given that everyone wants society to advance rather than becoming static. Young people must change the narrative from how things are to how they should be.

In 2023 I will be going on to do a conservation degree and continue my work as a conservationist. Along with this, I will be taking up a volunteer State Coordinator role at the Jane Goodall Institute as well as working on many exciting future projects. In the climate activism space, I plan on becoming more active after my Higher School Certificate exams and head to university. My life goal is to work as a conservationist and to bring climate and conservation issues to a global stage, such as the United Nations, while continuing to be a youth advocate and uplifting young people's voices.”

Young changemakers are invited to submit Applications for this year’s Canon Young Champion of the Year from 1st February 2023. For more information, visit the Global Good Awards website.

Nabilah Chowdhury Young Climate Activist and Winner of Canon Young Champion of the Year at the Global Good Awards

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