Ukhrul’s Zeinorin Stephen speaks at UN’s COP27 in Egypt

Ukhrul: Zeinorin Stephen, a social entrepreneur and founder of Hill Wild from Manipur, has attended the 27th session of the Conference of Parties (COP27), the United Nations climate summit, as one of the panelists in Egypt.

Attending the event at IFAD pavilion in Sharm El-Sheikh under the theme ‘Harnessing  the voices of rural youth’ Zeinorin said the contribution of indigenous peoples towards climate change adaptation and mitigation is well known. 

“For centuries, we have protected our lands and respected wildlife by utilising traditional knowledge passed down through generations. Improving access to adequate and equitable funding for indigenous peoples must be a priority for decision makers at COP27,” she said.

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Stating that indigenous people are not just stakeholders, they are also the rights holders, Zeinorin urged the world leaders to extend their supports to young farmers and indigenous communities to develop green enterprises towards climate change mitigation.

Born and raised in Ukhrul district and belonging to the Tangkhul tribe community, Zeinorin also highlighted the plights and struggles of the tribal people and absence of proper system for a sustainable livelihood.

“If we do not have proper ecosystem and importance given to agriculture in low income areas, many will eventually tend to deforestation to sell everything the forest offers without any balance because it becomes a matter of survival,” she said, adding “direct access to adequate and equitable funding has historically been and continues to be a serious problem for indigenous people and called the attentions of the world leaders to give importance to indigenous communities.”

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Further stressing on the contributions by the indigenous communities towards climate change movement, Zeinorin said “Indigenous people value land rights and resources, food providers, build knowledge and skills, work with nature, and recognise that indigenous food are sacred. Indigenous knowledge must be included in public education, training, and capacity-building efforts for sustainable food systems,” she added.

At the global platform, Zeinorin also shared her journey on being becoming a social entrepreneur.

“I was raised in a little town called Ukhrul and moved to city for better opportunities. However, when I moved back home, I found that most lands in my place were degraded with soil loss, broken food system and unimaginable poverty around,” said the young social entrepreneur from the hill district.

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The scene had actually reminded her of the time when she moved away in the first place.

I wanted to do something and that triggered me to start an enterprise of my own, making myself self-employed, further on to employ more and eventually began a farming movement, she said.

“The reason why I’m so driven is because I was once in that place of poverty and I could have lived a victim mindset but i came out of it with a champion mindset and I’m using that experience and journey to eradicate poverty in the indigenous communities, so that no one is left behind,” Zeinorin said.

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