Chido Cleopatra Mpemba: The African Union Youth Envoy’s Vision for the Future of Clean Cooking
Chido Cleopatra Mpemba currently serves as the African Union Youth Envoy, where her primary focus is to empower young people across the African continent. She works on amplifying youth voices and engaging them in advocacy and policy recommendations. One of the critical aspects of her work is advocating for the meaningful participation of young people in decision-making processes at all levels, from local to continental. This includes advocating for policies that address youth unemployment, access to quality education, and healthcare, among other key issues.
The Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA) spoke with Mpemba about her remarkable leadership and vision for the future of clean cooking.
This story is part of a series featuring youth leaders from across the clean cooking sector.
Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA): As the Office of the African Union Youth Envoy, what achievements are you most proud of and what are your future goals?
Chido Cleopatra Mpemba (Mpemba): Some key achievements I’m most proud of include advocating for youth inclusion in decision-making processes at the continental level; promoting policies and initiatives that address youth unemployment and access to quality education and healthcare; and establishing platforms for youth engagement and collaboration, such as the African Union Youth Reference Committee.
My next goals include continuing to advocate for youth inclusion in policy-making and decision-making processes; expanding initiatives that empower young people to be agents of change in their communities; and promoting clean cooking technologies and sustainable energy solutions as part of a broader agenda for environmental and health improvements. I believe that partners like the Clean Cooking Alliance can support these goals by collaborating on clean cooking advocacy and awareness campaigns, providing resources for youth-led clean cooking projects, and facilitating knowledge-sharing and innovation in the sector.
CCA: What inspires and motivates you to engage in clean cooking?
Mpemba: I’ve witnessed communities transform when they gain access to clean cooking technologies. It’s not just about reducing environmental impact but also improving health, particularly for women and children who are often disproportionately affected by indoor air pollution. Personally, I’m inspired by the stories of individuals and communities who have transitioned to clean cooking methods and experienced significant improvements in their quality of life.
CCA: What barriers do youth face when engaging in clean cooking and related sectors?
Mpemba: Youth face several barriers, including limited access to information and resources, such as funding and career opportunities. Additionally, there may be a lack of supportive policies and frameworks that encourage youth involvement. To overcome these obstacles, it’s crucial to promote awareness and education about clean cooking technologies and their benefits; create mentorship and training programs to build the skills and capacity of young people; advocate for policies that prioritize youth inclusion in clean cooking initiatives; and establish funding mechanisms and partnerships that support youth-led clean cooking projects.CCA: How can we better understand young people’s needs, challenges, and aspirations in the clean cooking sector and beyond?
Mpemba: We need to engage in active dialogue with youth. This includes conducting surveys, focus group discussions, and consultations to gather their insights. Moreover, involving youth in the design and evaluation of programs and policies ensures that their voices are heard, and their priorities are addressed effectively.
CCA: What opportunities are needed to empower youth in the clean cooking sector and create an inclusive and supportive environment for young leaders?
Mpemba: Opportunities should include involvement in the development and implementation of clean cooking policies and initiatives; participation in research and innovation projects related to clean cooking technologies; and access to entrepreneurship and business development programs that promote clean cooking solutions. The various programs I’ve been a part of have greatly benefited me professionally, providing opportunities for learning, networking, and skill development. These programs need to be inclusive, fostering collaboration among diverse groups of individuals.
Youth in clean cooking and adjacent sectors need more representation in policy-making forums, industry conferences, and research initiatives. The clean cooking sector can encourage an inclusive and supportive environment for young leaders by establishing mentorship programs that connect experienced professionals with young leaders; providing funding and resources for youth-led clean cooking projects and startups; actively involving youth in multi-stakeholder, intergenerational dialogues, and decision-making processes to ensure their perspectives are heard and considered; and recognizing the unique contributions and fresh ideas that young leaders bring to the sector.
CCA: How do you envision the role of youth in shaping the future of the clean cooking sector in the next decade?
Mpemba: I envision youth driving innovation, advocating for sustainable practices, and leading initiatives that address pressing environmental and health challenges. Youth will be at the forefront of developing and implementing clean cooking solutions that benefit communities and contribute to a more sustainable future.
CCA: What is a pivotal lesson you learned that shaped your career path, and what three pieces of advice would you offer to young individuals aiming to initiate change in the clean cooking sector and beyond?
Mpemba: A pivotal lesson I’ve learned on my journey is the importance of resilience and perseverance. There have been numerous challenges and setbacks along the way, but it’s essential to stay committed to one’s goals and beliefs. Additionally, I’ve learned that collaboration and networking are invaluable to creating meaningful change.
Here are my three pieces of advice:
- Believe in yourself and your vision. Your passion and determination will drive your success.
- Build strong partnerships and networks. Collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations to amplify your impact.
- Be adaptable and open to learning. The journey may not always go as planned, but the ability to adapt and learn from failures is crucial for growth.