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  • Nyiko Gift Mutileni


What does it take to make a difference in our ever-changing world? Is there a particular criterion one needs to meet in order to make a difference? For Shelot Masithi, based in Mankweng, all it takes is passion, determination and commitment. With a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Psychology from the University of Limpopo, Shelot Masithi was among the delegates representing South Africa during the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP27, held from November 6 until November 20, 2022, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. At COP27, key focus areas in 2022 were biodiversity loss; energy transition; decarbonization efforts; innovating for clean technologies as well as ‘the centrality of water and agriculture to the climate crisis.’ ‘A broad interaction with various stakeholders’ was prioritised ‘where the voice of youth, women, civil society and indigenous people’ was put at the centre of discussions.

What sets Shelot apart and possibly one of the reasons she was considered a perfect candidate to represent our country during COP27, is her ability to link psychology with climate change. She believes that this issue is one of the most important aspects of mental health that is rarely talked about, especially in African rural communities. Shelot is also interested in the preservation of African cultural knowledge and practices as she believes that this process might create a safe space for Africans to voice their thoughts and fears about climate change. She hopes that this would encourage Africans to be more active in climate change debates and conferences, something that is currently lacking especially on platforms such as COP27.

Shelot’s journey towards environmental activism is particularly interesting in the context of our world with its monolithic approach towards climate change. Shelot is not from a lineage of activists - her journey started in 2021, after a prolonged period of frustration about the state of our environment. She decided that instead of succumbing to depression and complaining about the world, she would rather be amongst those seeking out solutions to improve the climate change narrative in African communities.

When asked why it is important for Africans, especially the younger generation, to be involved in climate change activism, she expressed the opinion that, ‘leaders are not prioritising the needs of young people. There's no autonomy for African countries (leaders) to negotiate their needs and how things should be done. An example would be the proposed loss and damage fund. This was a historical win last year at COP27; however, African leaders do not have the autonomy to decide who will pay for that fund and how it would be facilitated/distributed. Africa is torn between building climate-resilient infrastructures and prioritising immediate climate action - we don't have money for both, since most African countries are drowning in debt.’ In a world where issues like climate change seem insurmountable and the strain on the younger generations who are inheriting this crisis is immense, Shelot Masithi is a beacon of hope for us all. You can find out more about COP27 on

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