International Women’s Day is just one of the 365 days per year that it is important to recognize and celebrate the contributions and advancements female leaders have bestowed onto the environment, society and culture from around the world. While there are thousands of women who are fighting to help conserve and preserve our planet, below we highlight eight brave women from across the globe who are making headlines for their innovative impact in the environmental, conservation and sustainability fields.
Melina Laboucan Massimo
Indigenous Rights & Clean Energy Campaigner (Canada)
Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, grew up in a small community where the only jobs were in the oil and gas industry. Following a devastating oil spill that contaminated the water and land that her community depended on for generations, Massimo was inspired to take action. She is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace, journalist, film producer and an indigenous rights activist. She advocates for a equitable transition to clean and renewable energy sources that prioritize local jobs, ownership and environmental protection.
Food Sovereignty Advocate (India)
Shiva is an eco-activist and agroecologist who focuses on sustainable agriculture, local food systems and the working conditions of farm workers in India. She is a vocal opponent of genetically modified organisms and her work has helped preserve and prioritize indigenous seed diversity and traditional knowledge. Forbes named Shiva one of the Seven Most Powerful Women on the Globe.
U.N. Leader and Climate Optimist (Costa Rica)
Christiana Figueres was the driving force behind the monumental Paris Agreement of 2015, in which 195 nations signed on to legally-binding, time-bound commitments to reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming. After serving as the Executive Secretary for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, Figueres turned her attention to speaking, writing and advising major companies on climate sustainability. Figueres also leads Mission 2020 and Global Optimism, organizations focused on making the world’s ambitious climate visions into a reality. She recently won the prestigious US$1 million Dan David Prize for her work in combating climate change.
Elephant Conservationist (Kenya)
Kahumbu is the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect in Kenya and leader of a muti-year campaign to both raise awareness about elephant poaching and pass conservation legislation. Her local and international efforts to stem poaching from all angles have won her numerous awards, including the Whitley Award and the National Geographic Howard Buffet Award for conservation leadership in Africa.
Green Re-Building Pioneer (Iraq)
Abdulrahman is the Founder and CEO of Iraq’s first green design and construction consulting company. Her goal is to help her war-torn country build back in a way that is “sustainable, inclusive and economically productive through making buildings and infrastructures healthy, environmentally responsible, and resource-efficient.” Abdulrahman was the co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2019.
Sustainable Business Leader (Nigeria)
Jadesimi is the CEO of a 100 percent Nigerian-owned Industrial Free Zone in Lagos. She is a trained medical doctor, entrepreneur and advocate for sustainable business as the only viable business model for progress. In 2018 she spoke at the U.N. about “the potential for private sector to take a lead in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.“ Jadesimi is confident that market growth in Africa, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, is essential to provide jobs and improve environmental and social problems at the scale needed for a successful and sustainable future.
Teen Climate Crusader (Sweden)
In 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish Parliament for three weeks, demanding national leaders radically prioritize climate change. Since then, her example has launched a ripple-effect of youth protests in over 270 cities around the world. Faced with living out the impacts of climate change, young people are taking the lead to speak out for stronger commitment and follow-through from world leaders. The New Yorker called Greta a “voice of unaccommodating clarity.”
Heba Al Farra
Women in the Environment Sector Connector (Palestine)
Al Farra was recognized as a UN Young Champion of the Earth for her organization, Women in Energy & Environment at MENA Region (WEE), which is building a professional network for Middle Eastern and North African women working in environmental fields. WEE connects women with resources and a supportive community. An environmental engineer, Al Farra left Palestine for Kuwait when the violence in Gaza disrupted her studies and is dedicated to linking women from her home country with the skills they need to succeed professionally.