Social development activist and conservation leader win WWF's top youth conservation award

Posted on June, 23 2021

Gland, Switzerland 23 June, 2021 - A social development activist and a conservation leader have won this year’s WWF International President’s Youth Award in recognition of their outstanding achievements, dedication, and commitment to the natural environment. The award has been running since 2012 and is the global conservation organization’s top accolade recognizing exceptional leadership in young conservationists from around the world.


Gabriel Mejia is the 24 year old co-founder of Youth Engaged in Wetlands - a youth network across 30 countries advocating for the conservation and protection of wetlands around the world - as well as a conservation photographer for National Geographic Society, and an environmental writer and columnist at the Manila Times.


A passionate and positive role model from the Philippines, “Gab” is a true voice and leader for his generation spending his time and talents covering stories on nature, wildlife, the climate crisis and indigenous people. In 2019, he was awarded a filmmaking fellowship by the Jackson Wild Media Lab and was featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2021: The Arts. Using his photography, storytelling and art skills, Gab influences and inspires others to act for nature and  is a shining example of positive action for all.


As we collectively face the pressing issues and injustices that continue to prevail against nature, the environment, and society— all I dream is for a present and future where all lives can coexist together in harmony. A just and sustainable world where wildlife, indigenous people, underserved communities, disempowered minorities, and the youth can all thrive in the one and only home we call our planet,” said Gab Mejia. 


“We are living today in an unprecedented and crucial time, where hope, action, and justice is needed now more than ever. Let this award be an inspiration to every single Filipino and citizen of our planet, young or old, to continue fighting the good fight. For I realize that the most difficult thing to achieve in this world is not happiness, is not success, is not fame nor glory— it is justice, and this is all that we deserve.” 


Mutetelenu Kalama is a passionate and dynamic 29 year old activist who started her journey ten years ago as a Climate Change Child Ambassador for the United Nations Zambia where she initiated environmental activities that saw over 1,000 children trained to become climate change ambassadors in their schools and communities. She has gone on to co-found the Agents of Change Foundation - where she currently serves as executive director - a local NGO active in using radio across Zambia as a tool for sparking conversations and raising awareness on social and environmental issues. Mutetelenu is passionate about training young people in leadership and advocacy and for pursuing and defending women’s rights. Her innovative approaches to influencing and inspiring others are a lesson for all.


“The climate is changing and we too need to change our ways. I believe in taking the bull by the horns and being the change I want to see. This award is a representation of the many young people out there who are making strides in environmental protection and advocacy. We realize we need to act now to save our planet, our home. This award comes at a time when, more than ever, young people need to promote innovative advocacy on climate change to secure a sustainable future. The future is now and we aspire to change the world” said Mutetelenu Kalama.


A graduate in development studies with a focus on environmental education and sustainable development, Mutetelenu has represented young female activists at the World Economic Forum where she spoke about the role of young women in environmental advocacy. The young activist  was named in the top 100 young influencers by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.


“The past year has shown us how important our relationship with nature is and how its neglect  can cause irreversible damage. Seeing Mutetelenu and Gabriel’s passion and outstanding leadership skills towards solving some of our most pressing planetary problems gives me hope that young people have a unique opportunity to help solve both the climate emergency and nature crisis. The next generation will determine the future of our planet and I hope they inspire the change we need to see for people, nature and climate.” said Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International.


The WWF International President’s Youth Award acknowledges and encourages outstanding achievements of young people under the age of 30 who are making significant contributions to nature conservation. Nominations are invited annually via WWF offices around the world.

WWF International President’s Youth Award and a signed copy of “A life on our Planet” by Sir David Attenborough
© Gabriel Mejia
Gabriel Meija receives WWF’s top youth conservation award
© Gabriel Mejia
Gabriel Meija in the field
© Gabriel Mejia
Mutetelenu Kalama's sharing on the effects of climate change on women and girls in Africa
© Mutetelenu Kalama
A recording with youth reporters on the mobile pop-up radio of the Agents of Change Foundation, co-founded by Mutetelenu Kalama
© Mutetelenu Kalama