Ineza Umuhoza Grace, Global Coordinator and co-founder of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition, first experienced the effects of the climate crisis at an early age when her family home in Rwanda was destroyed due to intensive rainfall and wind. “But growing up,” Ineza says, “I didn’t know that was the impact of climate change.” For Ineza, connecting this formative experience to the changing climate came later. “After high school, I was watching the news one evening and then I saw on the television a particular area in my country where the community was being forced to move because of flooding and erosion. On the television you could see that most of the people who were being displaced were women and children. And that reminded me of the powerless feeling that I had back then.”
Called to address the climate crisis and serve in her community, Ineza decided to study environmental engineering at the University of Rwanda. In 2020, Ineza helped found the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition (“LDYC”), a coalition of youth from the global North and the global South who join together to drive action, demand justice, and address loss and damage brought on by climate change. With more than 300 members from 40 countries, the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition is committed to sharing and amplifying the voices of youth impacted by the climate crisis while holding global systems and processes accountable.
Focusing on advocacy, training, communication, and storytelling, all with the purpose of demanding “finance to address loss and damage,” the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition engages in a wide variety of initiatives, including petitioning global leaders at international events such as the UN climate negotiations (Conference of the Parties, or “COP”), sharing the science of climate change with various communities while also centering the importance of Indigenous knowledge, creating cohorts of youth storytellers to share their experiences with loss and damage caused by climate change through art, and campaigning for investment in resilient infrastructure and restitution for communities devastated by the climate crisis.
“Everyone, everywhere is exposed,” says Ineza about the current climate situation. “Everyone is vulnerable, but the level of vulnerability depends on the level of infrastructure already in place, the educational system, the funds and finance, everything that is already in place can reduce the level of vulnerability, but at the end of the day everyone is vulnerable.”
As it is for many grassroots organizations around the world, UUSC is LDYC’s first funder, meaning UUSC is the first organization to provide LDYC with direct financial support. “Having [UUSC support] allowed us to be able to catalyze other funding because, you know how this system works, once you have one funder you are able to get the next one which is really incredible.”
When reflecting on her commitment to the global climate movement, Ineza points to her responsibility to her younger siblings and to future generations. Speaking about the changes she has witnessed in Rwanda just in her lifetime, Ineza says, “We can ask a kid, ‘When was the last time you saw a butterfly?’ Because butterflies are a part of the animals that are being endangered due to climate impacts. And you find kids who say, ‘I saw it on television.’ No one can see them in nature. And for me, I grew up seeing butterflies.” Ineza continues, “I don’t want to leave the future very red. It’s already red. But maybe it could be a little bit less red. And then maybe in the next 15 years, things will be much better for the current youth generation, especially children.”