Stella Nyanchama Okemwa leest de omgekeerde nieuwjaarsbrief voor 2024

1 January 2024: Nyanchama Okemwa reads her special New Year letter

In Belgium, it is traditional for children to write a New Year letter to their parents and grandparents. The letter is read aloud on 1 January. We, from Grandparents for Climate in Flanders traditionally turn the tables on New Year’s day: one of our ambassadors addresses their letter to the grandchildren of the world.

This year, Stella Nyanchama Okemwa is doing the honours.

(Voor de Nederlandse ondertiels: klik op het icoontje [cc],
maar Nyanchama leest haar brief zelf ook in het Nederlands: klik hier)

The text is available as subtitles in English and Dutch: click on [cc]. Or you can read it below.

My sweet adorable grandchildren,

In Kenya, the country where I was born and bred, New Year letters were not read on 1 January, not by children to their parents or grandparents and certainly not by adults to their grandchildren, as I am doing here today. So I’m trying to think what a Kenyan would write in such a special New Year’s letter. What would my hero, my role model, my neighbour and friend, Dr Wangari Muta Maathai, write in her New Year’s letter? Do you know who she was? She was a globally respected ecologist who protested
against the climate crisis and advocated for climate justice. She was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

She foresaw, I think, that the world would be ravaged by natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and mudslides or scorching droughts, heatwaves and desertification, all disasters that we are witnessing today. These disasters are forcing people to leave their homes and they flee from poverty, hunger, disease and even wars. People who flee their homes (you know: migrants) have lost their homes in their native countries, and many of them are not readily accepted in their host countries. As a result, they can barely make a living. Do you realise that this is as much our problem as it is theirs? Do you dare to acknowledge the role that we play in this grim state of affairs? Do we dare to figure out what we can do about it ourselves? I think there are many solutions within our reach if only we could set our minds to it and take action.

My dear grandchildren,

We, the adults, realise that your future is our responsibility as well as the future of all the children and grandchildren everywhere in the world. We must work on a solution that benefits everyone, solutions that are rooted in our common struggle for freedom, inclusion, solidarity and equity. We must be bold enough to tackle this today. We must not put it off until “someday”. We seem to be paralysed, as if we are suffering from some sort of ailment, something doctors would call a syndrome. I refer to it as a “someday syndrome”. My grandmother used to look at me very sternly if I dared to say I would do something “someday”.She would say to me:
Stop shaming me and yourself with your someday syndrome.
She would say: Child, there are seven days in a week and none of them is “someday”.
She would say to me: If you live in the illusion of someday, you waste the reality of today.
She would say to me: Today is all you’ve got, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is yet to come.
So you see, my children and grandchildren, I’m ashamed on behalf of my grandmother that we are part of this culture, this wait-and-see-culture, this pass-the-buck-culture. I’m ashamed that we allow ourselves to be held hostage by the greed of some multinational corporations and by political inertia.

When Greta Thunberg said “act like our house is on fire”, I’m sure she did not mean “act someday”.

Personally, I believe that we are who we are through the contacts we make with the people in the society we live in. I believe that our humanity and interconnectedness should be our guiding principle in addressing the climate crisis. I learnt this from the Ubuntu philosophy.

This philosophy views humanity from the perspective of “I am because we are”. In other words, we are all mutually interconnected. We live in the world but at the same time the world lives in us.
I believe that the Ubuntu philosophy paves the way for all of us without discrimination, locally, nationally and internationally, even throughout whole generations.
I believe Ubuntu philosophy paves the way for a humanity dedicated to each other and to the whole of the society in which we live.
I believe Ubuntu society paves the way for planting seeds today for tomorrow’s forests and the future of the children and grandchildren who come after us.
I believe in the Ubuntu philosophy and my greatest wish is for all humanity to mutually work together to save our planet for both our collective survival and that of our descendants.

This is my greatest wish to you.
From your doting grandmother, Nyanchama.

This ‘reverse” New Year’s letter is a tradition of Grootouders voor het Klimaat (be) .

Stella Nyanchama Okemwa calls herself a pan-Africanist, Afro-feminist and decolonialisation expert. Her engagement and expertise include gender relations, asylum and migration policy and equal rights. You can read her motivation as a Grandparents Ambassador (in Dutch) on this page of our site.

© CC BY-ND 4.0

Eén antwoord

Reactie toevoegen

Uw e-mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd. Vereiste velden zijn gemarkeerd met * .