Nouhad Awwad is a young Lebanese climate organizer living in Beirut. She has a Masters in Environmental Policy Planning and founded the Lebanese national chapter of the Arab Youth Climate Movement in 2015. She is the Lebanese youth delegate at COP22.
Nouhad’s first experiences in environmental organizing began at the age of 15 when she gathered friends to have beach clean-ups in Beirut. These early experiences in cleaning up plastic litter in addition to studying environmental health in University made her realize that humanity’s modern, unsustainable lifestyles are the main cause of environmental destruction. Charged with a sense of urgency, it became her passion to live in a way that is in connection with nature, while inspiring Lebanese youth to do the same.
She started by volunteering with small environmental projects and then she began graduate research analyzing the role of NGOs in the environmental movement in Lebanon. In 2015 she was introduced to the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM), a youth network of climate organizers across the Middle East and North Africa. She has helped to organize several campaigns and events since founding AYCM Lebanon, including a “Honey Day booth” to raise awareness about the plight of honeybees due to climate change, planting over 300 trees in honor of International Water Day, and helping with an event to enhance water supply and waste management for the population affected by the Syrian crisis in Lebanon.
Lebanon faces many environmental challenges, according to Nouhad. One of the greatest is the lack of environmental education. She sees the need for a greater emphasis on climate change education that is accessible to all students – as currently only private schools can afford to provide this. She also sees the need for a greater political consensus on the importance of environmental issues. According to her, politicians only look at the environment through the window of finance. Furthermore, people’s priorities are primarily financial and health-oriented, so they do not think climate change should be a political priority. Faced with the lack of education, political consensus, and enthusiasm on climate change, Nouhad is trying to inspire Lebanese youth to become more passionate about climate issues.
Nouhad is proud of the fact that all the board members of AYCM are women. When asked why this is the case she said, “Maybe they are more passionate… they feel it [passion] more.” She also points out that women are more affected by climate change. As women in villages are typically the food providers and the members of the family who deal with natural resources, they are more impacted by sustained drought and the subsequent decrease in agricultural production. She points out that rural women in Lebanon have experienced a decrease in their incomes because of this. As the link between women and climate is so important, almost all AYCM projects concentrate on youth and gender.
It is clear that Lebanese youth face considerable obstacles due to climate change. Despite this, Nouhad is fighting to raise awareness and help Lebanese people to make the connection between health and climate change. She is channeling her passion to make real change in her community and will continue to act as a champion for climate action in Lebanon beyond COP22.