A DUMBARTON woman who opened her house to a Tunisian climate activist during the COP26 conference has spoken of the “wonderful” experience.

Zoe Weir, a local ecologist and litter-picker, connected with Meriem Jradi via The Homestay Network, which was set up to provide accommodation for delegates who were priced out of staying in the city during the conference.

The 22-year-old stayed in Dumbarton for 11 days, and during this time Zoe said she had her eyes opened to the “life-or-death” climate crisis in Tunisia.

Zoe told the Reporter: “Rather than going to the conference myself and not really having anything to add, I felt it was more important to give people who are disproportionately affected by climate change a voice.

“I was quite nervous at first to open my house to a complete stranger but I was very lucky and got somebody who was wonderful.

“Meriem was incredibly hardworking while she was here. She was dedicated to representing her town’s pollution problem at the conference and attended every day for long hours.

“She comes from Gabes, Tunisia, and they have a big chemical complex there which is spewing out phosphorus gasses and ammonia.

“She told me there are many people in her town, even young people, with terrible cancers.

“Everybody is breathing this terrible yellow smoke and it’s been going on for decades.

“Her campaign is a life-or-death one – so many people in her town are dying of kidney failure because of the air pollution there. It makes you realise how precious breathable air is.”

While in Dumbarton, Meriem even had the opportunity to get involved with a local clean up.

She helped rid a riverside area near Lidl of plastics and other debris, with help from Friends of Leven River Valley.

Meriem said: “My group came here to put pressure on the Tunisian government to act on deadly air pollution from the chemical complex in Gabes, but we’ve been so glad to also make connections with local campaigners in Scotland.

“We’re hoping we can twin our local beach litter group back in Tunisia with the Dumbarton groups. It was so peaceful spending time by the river in this beautiful place.”