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Empowering citizens on effects of climate change

By Lucie Morangi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-05-23 16:56

Empowering citizens on effects of climate change

Margaret Wamboi in her mask she made during the Art of Change 21 campaign. [Photo by Lucie Morangi/chinadaily.com.cn]

An international art initiative aimed at empowering citizens in environment conservation was launched over the weekend in Kenya's down-market area of Kangemi.

Known as the Maskbook campaign and organized by Art of Change 21, a French not-for-profit organization, the event saw more 200 teenagers put their creative skills to good use by making face masks out of recycled materials.

One of the attendees, 15-year-old Margaret Wamboi said her interest to learn about effects of air pollution was roused when she and her seven-year-old sibling nearly died of carbon monoxide poisoning two years ago.

"My mother had left us in the house and locked the door behind her. The cooking stove was still on since it was a cold evening," said Wamboi. She only realized their lives were in danger when her sister lost consciousness. Luckily, the door could be unlocked from inside and she escaped together with her sister before calling the neighbors for help. "It is a common phenomenon around here," said the girl.

Kangemi is home to more than 100,000 of Nairobi’s low-income population.

Empowering citizens on effects of climate change

Alice Audouin, President & Founder, Art of Change 21. [Photo by Lucie Morangi/chinadaily.com.cn]

According to Alice Audouin, President and Founder of Art of Change 21, the campaign aimed at encouraging citizens, especially the most vulnerable to stand up against climate change, air pollution and poverty by creating face masks. "We want to inform the people that solutions are available within their own means by pressurizing their leaders to develop policies around environment conservation," said Audouin.

She revealed that the initiative conceived by Wen Fang, a Chinese artist whose works are regularly showcased in China, France, Korea and Italy, is simple but a powerful formula to effectively and positively contribute towards this global agenda. "As a precursor to the United Nations Environment Assembly, we want people to be informed and actively contribute to ongoing discussions," she said.

So far, the campaign has been held in China and France collecting more than 1,500 face masks. "More people have participated in these workshops but we are only taking in the most creative facemasks since we put emphasize on creativity," said the founder.

Launched in 2014 in France, the association is the first international initiative promoting environment conservation by combining art, social entrepreneurship and engaged youth.

This comes at a time the number of deaths of children under five is much higher in sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions. According to World Health Organization, an estimated 800,000 out of the annual 2 million deaths among children under the age of five caused by respiratory infections is due to indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution is responsible for 600,000 premature deaths every year in Africa. The continent’s reliance on the use of biomass for cooking, lighting and heating means that 90 per cent of the region’s population is exposed to this health threat.

Contact the writer at Lucymorangi@chinadaily.com.cn.

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