New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday urged students of the country not to underestimate the power of their voice ahead of a nationwide youth strike to call for action against climate change.

Ardern met a group of 130 students at Wellington College who are supporting the Friday demonstration happening in conjunction with global strikes inspired by the movement started by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, Efe news reported.

“Don’t underestimate the power of your voice,” said Ardern on stage, flanked by student activists Sophie Handford and Molly Doyle, student host Jesse Richardson and Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

“I think too often we make this assessment that in order to have an impact, you have to be of voting age. That is just not the case … Keep challenging all of us with the work that you’re doing,” the 38-year-old leader added.

Ardern discussed the government’s role in combating climate change and took questions from the students as well as from those watching the live broadcast.

When asked what New Zealand was doing not just at home, but in helping keep other nations accountable, she said that as a small, remote country with a small population base that was “not seen as an economic powerhouse”, the government was “constantly looking for ways that we can make sure we’re elevating issues of importance to us”.

“We actually have a bit of a fight, not just to make sure these issues are being heard there (the UN and the World Trade Organization), but for the institutions themselves. Because we do have a bit of a movement around isolationism – some countries just choosing to go it alone – and on climate change, if anyone goes it alone, it is at all of our peril,” she said.

“We need to use our voice for us, but for all of our Pacific neighbours too.”

On Friday, students all over the world are planning to skip school and take part in a strike to demand climate change action from their governments.

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