Ditebogo Lebea’s advocacy journey began as a child, when she regularly visited her family in rural Limpopo, South Africa. “I noticed how rivers and dams that once were filled with water, now were bone-dry. It was extremely hot, worse than before, and when it rained, heavy floods would destroy the houses of some of my family members. I saw the effects of climate change first hand. It was, and continues to be, personal to me. I had to take action.”
Ditebogo began participating in Model United Nations debates and youth participation work through Youth@SAIIA, and later became a global young reformer through her church. She advocated for churches to educate people on climate change, and for church policies to acknowledge climate action. Her work, together with other young reformers, resulted in churches around the globe committing to renewable energy by using solar power and developing solar cooking projects around Africa.
In 2016, at the age of 19, Ditebogo was invited to attend her first United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) and represent her church in Morocco. She familiarised herself with national policy-making and global negotiation processes. She attended stakeholder meetings with the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and was often the youngest person in the room. Ditebogo began to understand how South Africa creates its national position. She worked with other young South Africans to create a youth statement on climate change and pushed for formal youth participation in the negotiations.
In 2017 Ditebogo was invited to join the South African delegation to COP23 as the country’s youth delegate.
Ditebogo‘s work continues, and when the South African draft Climate Change Bill was released in 2018, she was part of the team that analysed the draft bill and submitted a youth position. Ditebogo knows policy change takes time, but she is committed to being part of the fight.