Tue | Jan 19, 2021

Earth Today | Jhannel Tomlinson: Making youth advocacy count

Published:Thursday | April 2, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Jhannel Tomlinson among a group of other youth advocates at the global climate talks held in Spain last year.
Jhannel Tomlinson with Prime Minister Andrew Holness after receiving her award for environmental protection.

IN 2018, Jhannel Tomlinson declared her commitment to youth advocacy in the effort to contain climate-change impacts in the Caribbean. Fast-forward to 2020, and she is sticking to her guns and has the ‘receipts’ to show.

Among other things, she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Environmental Protection, a feat for which she is extremely proud.

“Having been involved in youth-based climate advocacy for the past five years, I consider the PM youth award an achievement not only for me, but also for the young people I advocate on behalf of,” said Tomlinson, who was Jamaica’s youth representative on the Jamaica delegation to the global climate talks in Katowice, Poland, in 2018.

“I recall after winning the award, a young lady from a rural high school messaged me to say she was proud that as a ‘country girl’ I was representing so well and standing up for what I am passionate about. That has resonated with me, and I think this award is a motivation for many other young people engaged in environmental advocacy,” she added.

Her goal, she explained, is to leverage that achievement in pursuit of further work in the area of environmental protection and especially given climate change realities that threaten the survival of small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean.

“I intend on continuing my work as a scholar-activist and to forge partnerships, both with public and private entities, to ensure that we leave no one behind in the fight for our future,” the University of the West Indies PhD candidate told The Gleaner.

Her achievements in the last year to year and a half also include being named Caribbean Adviser to the Next Generation Climate Board.

“As an adviser, one is expected to possess an understanding of the context in his/her region, knowledge of promising solutions and actors, experience and trust from supporting grass-roots groups, and a strategic perspective on how to promote real change. I am, therefore, expected to have connections with youth-based groups in the region and to recommend grants to such groups when funding cycles come around,” Tomlinson said.

“I am further expected to leverage opportunities for networking and collaborations where possible and ensure that the Caribbean youth voice is brought to the table during board discussions and negotiations,” she added.

The Next Generation Board, according to information from its website, was set by the Global Greengrants Fund with the goal of addressing “the climate crisis on a global scale” through the provision of support for youth-led initiatives and other means.

Tomlinson has elaborated on the work of the board, which is comprises young advisers from across the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.


“Through the Global Greengrants Fund, advisers provide small grants to grass-roots groups and organisations that are committed to promoting social and environmental change,” she noted.

“The board fills a crucial niche, often overlooked by other funders, of providing small, flexible, and accessible funding to local youth-led organisations, grass-roots groups, and others around the world working to protect the environment and advance social justice,” added Tomlinson.

It is a platform she is keen to use to help foster youth-driven resilience building in the region.

“I hope to continue my work as an advocate for the inclusion of Caribbean youth, especially those from rural backgrounds, in discussions surrounding climate- action justice. I also intend on creating opportunities for youth-based groups across the Caribbean to collaborate on different activities and campaigns,” insisted Tomlinson, who has been involved with the planning for various youth engagements on climate change.

They include a public session hosted in Montego Bay by the United Nations Development Programme and the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in March last year.

Meanwhile, Tomlinson said that she has already made good progress, courtesy of the board.

“I have already secured grants for two youth environmental groups based in the Caribbean, one in Jamaica and the other in Dominica. I intend on continuing to help groups across the Caribbean to secure funding in an effort to bring their concepts and initiatives to life,” she said.