Women, particularly indigenous women, have long been leading the fight against climate change through their work and activism. Today, on International Women’s Day, we want to take a moment to celebrate them and their efforts to protect our world.
Dr. Rose M. Mutiso
Dr. Rose M. Mutiso can be considered your go-to expert in energy innovation and energy access. She is the co-founder and CEO of the Mawazo Institute, which supports female leaders and next-generation innovators in East Africa, as well as the research director for the Energy for Growth Hub. In 2016, she was also appointed a Senior Fellow in the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Here, she worked on several crucial pieces of legislation on energy access in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that were signed into effect by President Obama.
Someone you’re likely not surprised is on this list is Greta Thunberg. As an environmental activist and public figure, Greta has repeatedly called out international leaders for not doing enough to combat climate change. When she was just 15, she inspired a movement called Fridays for Future (FFF) by protesting in front of the Swedish Parliament. By 2019, more than one million protestors had joined her, standing on strike for climate change in 125 countries. When attending the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, Thunberg famously sailed there on a zero-carbon yacht to deliver an impactful speech that will surely go down in history.
Christiana Figueres is a woman with many achievements, but perhaps the one she will be remembered for the most is her hard work as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Here, she brought together the biggest voices in government, finance and technology, NGOs, and activists to deliver the historic 2015 Paris Agreement, perhaps doing more than anyone to facilitate global action towards climate change. Christiana is also the co-founder of Global Optimism, where she has worked in everything from climate change and sustainable development to energy and land use to help organisations make their systems more sustainable.
Dame Ellen MacArthur witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of marine waste after becoming the fastest solo sailor to round the globe in 2005. After this, she decided to launch the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to reimagine existing production and consumption practices and develop better, more sustainable alternatives. In 2018, the foundation worked with UN Environment to launch its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. This saw big-name companies such as H&M Group, L’Oréal, and Unilever commit to limiting or eradicating their plastic packaging once and for all.
The “Queen of Recycling”, Isatou Ceesay, is a Gambian activist who quite literally turns trash into treasure through her recycling movement, One Plastic Bag. Here, Isatou used her knowledge from volunteering in the Peace Corps to teach other women how to upcycle plastic bags into purses, handbags, and rucksacks. With that, the N’jau Recycling and Income Generation Group was born. The movement uplifted hundreds of West African women and, at the same time, greatly improved the plastic waste problem in the community.
“If we build a society based on honouring the earth, we build a society which is sustainable and has the capacity to support all life forms.”
Winona LaDuke is an Indigenous environmentalist, political activist, and program director for Honor the Earth, where she works extensively on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable food systems, and environmental justice. Previously one of Time magazine’s 50 most promising leaders under 40, Winona was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007 for advocating, raising public support, and creating funding for environmental groups across North America and the globe.
Janice Lao, a developmental economist and environmental scientist, previously worked at MTR, Hong Kong’s transport network, where she launched its first green bond with major success. Janice has also worked for several other large brands where she has worked to set the standard for carbon trading, ethically-sourced seafood, hiring minorities, and much more. Her achievements led her to be named the youngest and first Asian winner of the Edie Sustainability Leader of the Year Award as well as one of Forbes’ 46 Sustainable Leaders.
Vandana Shiva—aka the “Gandhi of grain”—is an ecologist, physicist, and activist who has spent decades working to improve the way we interact with the planet. Her work started in the 1970s when she built a movement called Navdanya, the country’s biggest network of seed keepers and organic products for the conservation of indigenous diversity. Now, as the founder and director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, one of her primary goals is taking on big agriculture and fighting for farmers’ rights to change the food system for the better. Vandana has been a key figure in putting pressure on the World Bank and has led international campaigns on food rights, as well as a global movement called Diverse Women for Diversity.