'Stop calling me Greta of India': 8-yr-old Licypriya Kangujam says comparison doesn't help; Manipuri climate activist dropped out of school in Feb 2019

  • Kangujam received global attention when she addressed the COP25 climate conference in Spain's Madrid in December 2019

  • The activist, who has already spoken in 21 countries, gave the world a glimpse of her resolve as she urged global leaders to 'act now'

  • It was after the COP25 summit that Spanish newspapers hailed her as the 'Greta of the South'

Eight-year-old climate activist Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur, often labelled the 'Indian Greta Thunberg', rejected the comparison and appealed to the media to recognise her identity and story. "If you call me 'Greta of India', you are not covering my story. You are deleting a story," she tweeted.

Kangujam received global attention when she addressed the COP25 climate conference in Spain's Madrid in December 2019. The activist, who has already spoken in 21 countries, gave the world a glimpse of her resolve as she urged global leaders to "act now".

It was after the COP25 summit that Spanish newspapers hailed her as the 'Greta of the South', PTI reported.

On Monday, Kangujam addressed the label and said, "Stop calling me 'Greta of India'. I am not doing my activism to look like Greta Thunberg. Yes, she is one of our inspirations and is a great influencer. We have a common goal but I have my own identity and story. I began my movement since July 2018 even before Greta had started."

Kangujam further said that she had addressed world leaders at a UN event in Mongolia in July 2018, which is a month before Thunberg's sit-in protest outside the Swedish parliament, demanding action against climate change, had reportedly begun. "Since then I started my movement called 'Child Movement'. In Hindi, we called it 'Bachpan Andolan' to appeal to our world leaders to take immediate climate action."

She added that the media first noticed her when she spent a week in front of the Parliament since 21 July, 2019, but that she has opted for the limited publicity because she felt that her work "was more important than the organisation".

"I even dropped out my school since February 2019 (before Grade 1 final exam) when I was just 7 years old due to my weekly protests in front of the Parliament House of India. I sacrificed so much of my life at this tender age not to be called 'Greta of India'.

Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish activist, became the face of the global fight for action against climate change after she protested outside the Swedish parliament for a year since August 2018. In December 2019, the TIME magazine named her as the 'Person of the Year'.

In December, when Kangujam was invited to speak at the COP25 summit, her family had found it difficult to receive funding from the Centre for the trip. According to her father, KK Singh, who accompanied her to Spain, several requests to the government to help her with funding fell on deaf ears, PTI reported.

Singh said the family sent email requests to several ministers for sponsorship but got no reply. He said after trying to crowdfund her trip, a person from Bhubaneshwar booked their tickets to Madrid.

"My mom broke her gold chain and finally booked my hotels," Kangujam said.

However, Singh added that just a day before leaving for Madrid from India on 30 November, they got an email from the Spanish government that they would sponsor their accommodation for the 13-day event.

Kangujam had to drop out of school in February as she could not attend most of her classes. Activism, including participating in a weekly protest outside the Parliament house, took up most of her time.

While her fight against climate change will continue, the activist has not given up on the dream of pursuing her education altogether. According to Singh, Kangujam is the youngest climate activist in the world.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 27, 2020 18:36:57 IST