Youth Ambassador: United Nations Environment Programme

Ella Bella Constantinides

When Ella Bella Constantinides met Nelson Mandela she told him in isiZulu: “I am one of your free children” — a responsibility Constantinides is mindful of in her work to raise environmental awareness among young people and make sure older generations listen to the youth.

Along with her sister, Catherine Constantinides, she founded Generation Earth — an organisation that provides a platform for the youth to be active through initiatives such as Green Your School, which helps learners to talk about environmental issues and do what they can in their area to save the planet. By changing mindsets, Constantinides hopes to “change the supply and demand chain, by driving environmentally responsible consumerism”.

The programme saw her crowned Miss Earth SA, and then selected as a youth ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, whose executive director warned her that she would soon steal his job. Both of these positions take her across the globe to address ordinary citizens and the United Nations on burning environmental issues. And when young people got to draft an Africa youth statement for COP17 at the Tunza Generation Earth Africa Summit in 2011, Constantinides was there, supporting their efforts every step of the way.

She says that working with young people is exciting because they “always push the bar higher and think out of the box”. The only downside to her work is “the realisation that I’m human with human limitations, which is a big let-down”. She wants more nephews and nieces, and one day to “surround myself with the pitter-patter of little feet” — that is, after she has added a PhD to her master’s in dramatic arts and education. For now, Constantinides has one request: “Please join our revolution. Get involved because this is our fight to save our planet and our people.”

— Sipho Kings McDermott

Twitter: @EllaBellaC