March 8 is International Women’s Day, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on women’s contributions as caretakers of people and nature and defending environmental and human rights. In celebration of this day, here is a list of 10 women who are working tirelessly at saving the planet.
First on our list of women saving the planet, Shalvi comes from Fiji, an island nation that could be submerged in the next few decades as sea levels continue to rise. Now 13 years old, she was the youngest speaker at the COP23 talks in 2017, delivering an urgent call to action, urging world leaders to curb the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Xiaoyuan has focused her attention on providing rural communities in China with safe drinking water. She is the founder of MyH2O, an app that charts groundwater quality so that people can find clean sources of drinking water. The app also connects communities with water filtration companies and other water solution providers. Since its launch in 2015, the platform, which services 1 000 villages in 26 provinces, has helped tens of thousands of people access clean water. With an estimated 50% of China’s shallow groundwater contaminated by agricultural runoff and factory waste, her work is incredibly important.
“There are many environmental issues happening in my country, but I barely see them in the media or reported by anyone.”
Leah Namugerwa is a 16 year old activist who leads the Fridays4Future in Kampala, Uganda. She petitioned to place a ban on plastic bags and is determined to enable the Ugandan government to implement environmental legislation. She made calls to the people in her country to celebrate their birthday by planting a tree. This would ideally allow a million trees to be planted every year. She is also passionate in engaging in environmental injustice forums.
Marinel Sumook Ubaldo
“Climate change deprived us of our human rights…This is going to be a long fight, so we must aim not just for resiliency but for accountability.”
Marinel is a registered social worker, and one of the founders of Youth Leaders Environmental Action Federation. She is an advocate for climate and the environment and has been actively involved in educating communities – especially, the youth and children – about climate change and the roles they can take to adapt and mitigate its effects. She has spoken to world leaders on behalf of Filipinos during the opening of the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris and the UNFCCC COP 25 in Madrid. She has also been a Resource Person during the Climate Justice Liability Public Hearing during the Climate Week in New York USA last September 2018. She has recently been trained by former US Vice-President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader, and continues to tell her story on the global platform. Marinel aims to shed light on the reality of climate change, the urgent need for world leaders to keep their climate commitments and encourages the rest of the world to do their part in the climate fight.
“Every meal on every plate is impacted by climate change. To feed the world we need climate action now.”
It was the decade-long millennium drought on Anika’s family’s farm that spurred her interest in the climate crisis, and prompted her to ask “How are we going to feed a rapidly growing global population well, in a climate challenged world?” With a passion for rural communities and healthy ecosystems, she is committed to help create sustainable and vibrant farming landscapes in the present and for the future. Anika is a recognised thought-leader of agro-ecological systems resilience and an engaging communicator. She has a PhD in Agricultural Science and has passion for international farming development.
India is working to bring indigenous rights to the centre of the climate justice movement by ensuring that indigenous people gain the rights to their land.
She’s spoken to the UN in talks that resulted in the Paris climate agreement, and she works as both an activist and conservationist in her native Aotearoa, which is the Māori name for New Zealand.
Nzambi was concerned about the amount of plastic in her home country of Kenya, specifically Nairobi, and so she founded Gjenge Makers, a company that uses discarded plastic to produce paving bricks. She developed a machine that compresses a mixture of plastic and sand into sturdy bricks that are both lighter and more durable than cement. Used to build walkways, her business now produces 1 500 pavers per day, reducing the amount of plastic waste on the streets and in landfills. Developing the technology to produce the bricks took a year and demanded that she quit her job at a Kenyan oil company. Nzambi is a women saving the planet one brick at a time!
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Her home country of Kuwait generates 1.5 kg of trash per person per day- twice the global average- and 90% of it ends up in landfills. This encouraged Fatemah to found Eco Star, a non-profit that recycles trash from homes, restaurants and schools across Kuwait. Facing stigma and discrimination based on her age and gender, Fatemah used her own money to fund Eco Star. Since its launch in 2019, the company has recycled over 3.5 tonnes of plastic, 10 tonnes of paper and 120 tonnes of metal.
In 2017, at 9 years old, Ridhima was suing the Indian government over its failure to address climate change. Still ongoing, her lawsuit is part of a growing legal movement to hold governments accountable for their part in accelerating global warming. In her lawsuit, Ridhima called on the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop a carbon budget strategy and create plans for recovering from the effects of climate change. “My government has failed to take steps to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing extreme climate conditions,” she wrote in her petition. “This will impact both me and future generations.”
Last, but certainly not least on our list of women who are saving the planet, Mindy Lubber is CEO and President of Ceres, a non-profit that uses hard data to show investors and corporations that clean technologies, like solar power, wind energy and water recycling, are not only environmentally and socially responsible, they’re also good business.
Climate Action 100+, an initiative Ceres helped co-found, has more than 500 investors with USD$47 trillion in assets under management. She says that sustainable development and the Paris climate change agreement must be part of the imperative of business, “not something to hold your nose at and fight against.”
Featured image by: Flickr