The Thai youth UN climate leader giving lessons in female empowerment

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2024

Aminta Permpoonwiwat, Thailand’s youngblood climate leader, is a UN climate activist on a mission to unleash the potential of Thai girls and women.

Aminta Permpoonwiwat’s path into climate activism began in her school’s debating club, where she geared up for battle by researching global warming.

But after realising the scale of the climate crisis, she quickly became frustrated with the limited impact of debate.

She needed to find a way to propel real change.

She joined Saturday School, an organisation that sends volunteers to teach in schools all over Thailand.

Still, Aminta felt that volunteering left out climate education.

The only option left was to start her own youth mentorship organisation, which recruits volunteer high school students to teach children in rural areas across Thailand about climate resilience and sustainability.

Aminta received an invitation to join the United Nations Youth for Climate programme in 2021.

She represented Thailand at the UN in 2021 and 2022, helping young colleagues from around the world draft a youth manifesto that was presented to world leaders at the Pre-COP 26 climate summit.

The Thai youth UN climate leader giving lessons in female empowerment

Barriers to female empowerment

Asked about barriers to female empowerment she faced on her path to international climate activism, Aminta points to institutionalised inequality in Thailand.

As a student at a public school, she experienced first-hand how girls are deprived of opportunities in the Thai education system.

She says the problem starts early in life with cultural norms that favour males over females.

Education and development of boys are often prioritised when family finances are tight.

“Girls are the most affected whenever there is upheaval in families. In rural areas, girls are the ones who have to drop out of school and help their family earn money,” Aminta said.

Believing that education is the foundation for everything in life, Aminta launched a project to encourage girls to aspire to college or university as a way of discovering their passion and succeeding in life.

The Thai youth UN climate leader giving lessons in female empowerment

Motivated by personal experiences

Her experience as a volunteer teacher girls and young women in rural areas affected Aminta deeply.

She saw the impact education had in improving the livelihoods of people from underprivileged backgrounds.

In the rural schools where she volunteered, most girls came from impoverished farming families.

When droughts or floods destroyed crops, they often skipped school to help their families secure income from other sources and put food on the table.

But Aminta liked to remind them of the long-term benefits of staying in education.

“If you really invest in education and find your passion, then you can succeed and really become a productive and successful person,” she said.

Aminta recalls that the idea of studying as the key to a better future made their eyes sparkle.

The girls realised that through education they could improve their social standing and “become someone.”.

“When they're empowered to really see the value of education and that it's not wasting their time, I can see this sparkle in their eyes when they look up at me,” she said.

“I feel that I made a difference in this girl's life by making her see that education is important. And that if she carries on, she can become someone important.”

The Thai youth UN climate leader giving lessons in female empowerment

The road to success

Aminta also offered advice for Thai girls, saying the most important thing was to have faith in themselves.

“I think that for any young girl or woman who wants to be successful, if you know what you want, then you can work for it.

“As women, we are so resilient, and we have so much power in us; if we know what we want, we can work towards it.”

The Thai youth UN climate leader giving lessons in female empowerment