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Youth Activism: A Call for Climate and Social Justice

Wednesday, October 28 at 12-1 pm EDT (5-6 pm CET)

Take a peek into what it means to be an activist in today’s ever changing world. Join us for a spontaneous conversation with four climate and social justice activists from Nigeria, South Africa and the United States. Discover how these remarkable women were drawn into activism – many from such a young age – and what motivates them to continue. Get their take on the urgency of climate change and its intersection with a wide range of social issues. Find out what it takes to shake up politics and influence change from inside and outside the system. Get ready to be inspired during this headliner session full of energy and passion!


Brenda_Skelenge.PNGBrenda Skelenge, Leaps Development and Advocacy Services

A driven social entrepreneur based in Cape Town, Brenda recently founded Leaps Development and Advocacy, a Microsoft Accredited Education Partner offering “cradle-to-career” educational support services and focused on finding creative solutions for using inclusive technologies to bridge learning gaps as well as for schools without access to online-based resources. 

Brenda previously worked as a youth development consultant for various NGOs and has both studied and worked in various multicultural settings, whether as a special needs teacher, facilitator, or a tech-literacy skills trainer. From her experience in community and scholar development, she has been exposed to developing multidisciplinary interventions combining adolescent addiction issues in black communities while bridging cultural divides and learning gaps though adult language facilitation, remedial teaching and creative arts. 

Merging her passion for youth development with culture and creativity, Brenda’s current work focuses on supporting school communities and in and out-of-school youth by combining digital skills and art and creativity as a way to bridge learning gaps and put education at the center of community building. This provides her with invaluable insights in providing a holistic and community-based model of educational support while engaging youth in difficult social situations and working with them to reimagine their social circumstances. 


Patricia_Matolengwe.pngPatricia Matolengwe, South African Homeless People’s Federation 

Patricia Matolengwe arrived in Cape Town from the Transkei in 1982 at age 27. Mother to a young daughter, she had passed Standard 9 (Grade 11) in the Transkei, and later attended the University of the Western Cape, studying for the Advanced Certificate for Educators of Adults. 

Patricia began organizing for the People’s Dialogue (PD) in 1992, and soon became the Western Cape Co-coordinator. She initiated the Victoria Mxenge Housing Savings Scheme, was politically active in the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL), and in 1994 became the regional co-coordinator for the Western Cape for the South African Homeless People’s Federation (Federation). By 1998, she had won an award from the United Nations Development Programme and was a leading member of the National Federation. 

A skilled negotiator with significant experience working with government, Patricia has remained the co-coordinator of the Savings Schemes and a leading member in the regional Ufundu Zufes since she began the Victoria Mxenge Housing Development Association (VM) Savings Group in the early ninties. She serves as an advisor to the national government on the People’s Housing Process project relating to subsidy application forms and has been prominent in talks with the Western Cape Housing Board on the release of subsidies. 

Patricia is highly respected for her conflict resolution skills and has solved many community disputes over land, title deeds, subsidies, and personal issues. In 2003, she was a member of Cape Town’s mayoral task team on housing and became the savings and loans co-coordinator for the PD. In her extensive work in housing, she has also learned some building skills, such as mixing cement, mapping, house design and drawing house plans. She has been on many international, national, regional and local exchange visits and has a deep understanding of community issues. 

Adenike_Oladosu.jpgAdenike Oladosu, Eco-feminist and Youth Climate Activist (Nigeria) 

Adenike Titilope Oladosu is a 25-year old Nigerian climate activist, eco-feminist and founder of the "I Lead Climate" campaign advocating for the restoration of Lake Chad. She specializes in equality, security and peace building across Africa, especially in the Lake Chad region, and initiated the Fridays For Future movement in Nigeria. 

A recipient of Amnesty International’s Ambassadors of Conscience award, Adenike was also recognized by Greenpeace UK as one of three prominent young black climate activists in Africa trying to save the world, alongside Vanessa Nakate (Uganda) and Elizabeth Wathuti (Kenya). 

In 2019, she was invited to the inaugural United Nations Youth Climate Summit and named by the Human Impact Institute (USA) as one of 12 women taking climate action in rural communities. She has showcased her dedication to climate action in several international conferences from COP25 – where she gave a "moving address" about climate change in Africa and how it affects lives – World Economic Forum events, and the Global Landscape Forum, to several national and local events.  

Adenike led several community projects during her yearlong service to her homeland of Nigeria, serving as the Vice President of SDGs and the UN Global Goals in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Furthermore, through her movement, she has started the green accord in the bid for countries to localize international agreements and collaborations for meaningful outcomes and implementation. 

Ayakha_Melithafa.jpgAyakha Melithafa, Youth Climate Activist (South Africa)

Ayakha Melithafa is an 18-year-old Grade 12 student at the Centre of Science and Technology in Khayelitsha. This year alone, Ayakha received the Charlotte Mannya Maxeke Institute’s Women of Firsts Award and was nominated as one of South Africa’s Most Powerful Women by the Mail and Guardian for her role as a young climate justice activist. 

Her activism has seen her represent youth voices from the global south on various national and international platforms including the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland alongside world-renowned youth climate activists like Greta Thunberg. 

Her mission is help address the greatest ecological crisis of our time and enable leaders to deepen their understanding of complex issues, shape new models and standards and drive scalable, collaborative action for systemic change. 

She has worked as a recruitment official and spokesperson for the African Climate Alliance, a youth-led climate advocacy group that organised the #climatestrike protests in Cape Town in collaboration with more than a million youths around the world. She is also a graduate of Project 90 by 2030’s YouLead Initiative. 

This fierce young woman has called for an immediate moratorium on the extraction of coal, oil and gas in South Africa and she recently made headlines when she joined Greta Thunberg and other teens from across the world in petitioning the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to hold five of the world’s leading economic powers accountable for inaction on the climate crisis. 

Ayakha hopes to inspire more South African youth voices towards addressing key issues on creating a sustainable, low carbon future and to put pressure on big emitters to stop blocking global climate action; exert pressure on South Africa to reduce its own emissions and plan a just transition; and encourage South African leaders and policymakers to lead Africa in pushing the world towards ambitious climate action. 

Anna_Kemper.jpgAnna Kemper, Youth Climate Activist (United States)

Having done activist work in the Pacific Northwest for five years, Anna Kemper’s passions and experience overlap in the arena of affordable housing, climate justice, and transportation justice. By day, she works in the renewable energy industry and volunteers in her free time at Sunrise PDX, a branch of a national youth climate justice organization. Anna sits on the board for two nonprofits – Portland: Neighbors Welcome and Oregon Walks, and brings a youth perspective to the decision making. She also currently works as the Field Director on a regional campaign, for a candidate running on a climate justice platform.


Leading with Purpose: a blueprint for action 

Friday, October 30 at 10-11 am EDT (3-4 pm CET)

When history books are written about 2020, entire chapters and volumes will be dedicated to understanding leadership at this time of upheaval that has spared no one country, community, or organization. Unlike any other time, people power—acts of individual leadership—is propelling social innovation, historical reckonings, and structural change onto societal agendas. We also continue to grapple with ideas of diversity and inclusion, that go beyond headlines and hashtags. Join Tjada and Natosha for a candid conversation on exploring leadership in the context of our times and challenges, through their own personal journeys and those of their organizations.


McKenna_8-20_headshot.jpg Tjada D'Oyen Mckenna, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps

As Chief Executive Officer of Mercy Corps, Tjada leads a global team of nearly 6,000 humanitarians, who provide immediate relief to save lives and livelihoods and work to create transformational change benefiting 29 million people in more than 40 countries. Previously, she served as Chief Operating Officer of CARE, where she oversaw the organization’s programming and global operations. Tjada has also served as Chief Operating Officer at Habitat for Humanity.

Tjada spent more than a decade working to end world hunger in roles with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. government. During the Obama administration, Tjada served as the Deputy Coordinator of Development for Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and the Assistant to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Food Security in Washington, D.C.

Tjada also brings a passion for innovation to her work, developed early in her career, through various roles at McKinsey & Company, American Express and General Electric.

Tjada earned a B.A. from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. 

Headshot_Reid_2020.jpg Natosha Reid Rice, Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Habitat for Humanity International

Natosha Reid Rice has recently transitioned into the role as Habitat for Humanity International’s first Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Natosha, who has served as the Associate General Counsel, Real Estate and Finance with Habitat since 2011, will now join the nonprofit’s senior leadership team and will lead the development and the execution of Habitat’s global strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion.

In her previous role as Associate General Counsel, Natosha initiated and managed financing programs and strategies to generate sources of capital that enable Habitat affiliates to build affordable housing with families throughout the U.S. In addition to her work at Habitat, Natosha served as an Associate Pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA for 11 years before accepting her new role as Minister for Public Life at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.  

Prior to joining Habitat, she practiced law in the commercial real estate practices of Alston & Bird LLP, in Atlanta, Georgia and at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison in New York City.  While at these firms, her practice focused on commercial real estate development transactions, acquisitions, dispositions and leasing.  

Natosha is passionate about providing a voice to the voiceless and opportunities to communities that have been historically disadvantaged. 

Shortly after graduating from college, she was chosen by the King Center for Nonviolent Change and Harvard University, as one of 5 students, to implement a voter education program with the South African Nonpartisan Voter Education Program in preparation for South Africa’s first democratic elections.  She trained over 6,000 people in Cape Town, South Africa who then participated in the election that led to the election of President Nelson Mandela in 1994. Natosha continues to put her passion into action by serving on the boards of the global Harvard Alumni Association as an Elected Director, the Atlanta Community Foodbank, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Invest Atlanta’s Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. and the Advisory Board of the Harvard Debate Council. She has been actively involved in efforts to pass legislation and policies to protect victims of human sex trafficking in Georgia. Her work alongside other activists and advocacy organizations, led to the passage of the Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law in 2015 and a state Constitutional Amendment in 2016 that outlines the operation of the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund and Commission.  

Additionally, she is a highly regarded keynote speaker and workshop facilitator for organizations such as Delta Airlines, the Junior League of Atlanta, LEAD Atlanta, The Atlanta Hawks, Leadership Atlanta, churches and other civic and community organizations on topics such as the power of authentic leadership, the intersection of faith and justice, the power and impact of privilege, equity and inclusion, race and gender justice, and community empowerment. Natosha has presided over the National Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Commemorative Service for the past 5 years and delivered her talk  “If We Are More Alike Than Unalike, Then…”  for TEDx Centennial Park Women.

Natosha has received recognition and awards for her work and leadership including being selected as one of Atlanta Tribune’s 50 Women of Excellence, one of Atlanta’s 100 Most Influential Women by the Atlanta Business League, the YWCA Academy of Women Achievers, the Circle of Friends Pearl Award and the Church Women United’s (Atlanta Unit) Outstanding Young Woman. Natosha is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the International Women’s Forum and the Lake Spivey Chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc.  She was also a member of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2014 and was a fellow in the 2017-2018 International Women's Forum Leadership Foundation Fellows Program with 35 women from 14 nations. 

Natosha received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her B.A. in Government with honors from Harvard/Radcliffe College where she was a Harvard/Radcliffe Class Marshall and awarded the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize (Radcliffe’s Highest Honor) and the E.P. Saltonstall Prize.  Natosha is married to Corey Rice and they are the proud parents of Kayla, Malachi and Caleb. 


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