22 Vital Voices Women Leaders Fighting Against Climate Change
At Vital Voices we know that women and girls bear the greatest burden of the climate crisis — from higher workloads to increased safety risks from instability and more. This Earth Week, join us to celebrate the leaders in the Vital Voices Global Leadership network who are pushing for progress and facing the climate crisis head on.
Check out 22** of the women leaders across the Vital Voices network who are key to our collective fight against climate change, and be sure you’re following a few of the leaders making history now to build a better, more sustainable future. We’re grateful for women like these who are driving progress with courage and determination all over the world!
A fierce advocate and pioneer for renewable energy in Africa, Habiba Ali founded Sosai Renewable Energies after attending a conference where she learned that inhaling smoke from open fires and lanterns was equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes. Struck by the memories of cooking on an open fire with her mother and sister as well as the visions of the women whom she bought products from each day, Habiba founded Sosai to offer clean energy alternatives while also providing economic empowerment opportunities for women and youth. Habiba is the vice president of the Renewable Energies Association of Nigeria and serves as a member of the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves, the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves and the Nigerian Energy Network. Hear more from Habiba on how her past has informed her activism on the Vital Voices podcast.
Catalina Alvarez is the founding partner and administrative manager of Selva Nevada — an innovative ice cream chain that works with local farmers to supply fruits from environmentally fragile ecosystems, working to improve the economic and social conditions of rural communities in Colombia. By integrating local farmers in the ice cream value chain, Selva Nevada provides non-timber value to natural forests in the Colombian Amazon and the Choco, Caribbean, and Andean regions. Find out more about Selva Nevada’s process on their Youtube channel!
Aida Bakri is founder and managing director of ADS Insight, a consultancy that helps to create an enabling environment through sound legislative policy so that businesses can grow and thrive while maintaining high environmental and social standards. Global Ambassadors Mentee Aida combines scientific proficiency with over 20 years’ experience in the European Union legislative domain. Aida is a passionate social entrepreneur and advocate for women’s financial inclusion, access to finance, and technology. In the context of agricultural resilience in the face of the climate crisis, Aida’s activities on women’s economic empowerment have concentrated on women agri-entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa and the small island developing states. Listen to Aida speak at TedX on what led her to found ADS Insight and how her leadership has been informed by equity and justice.
2021 VV Engage fellow Claire Bailey is the current leader of the Northern Irish Green Party and has been a fierce gender equality advocate throughout her professional life. Clare has resiliently devoted the bulk of her professional life to integrating gender equality and climate justice into public policy.
Sarah El Battouty
With over 18 years of experience in sustainable development and green and environmental building strategies, Sarah El Battouty is a globally award winning architect and founder of two companies: MuBun Sustainable Furniture, transforming scrap waste into luxury high-end sustainable furniture, and ECOnsult, one of Egypt’s most unique Environmental Design, training and strategy companies that has achieved the highest number of energy saving certified projects in Egypt by an Egyptian consultant. Her work spans from Egypt to Italy to China, and focuses on partnering with the private sector and government to implement green projects with social impact. She also works to raise awareness on resource management and environmental economics to create sustainable communities for Egypt’s growing population as well as regional climate challenges linking them to education and magnifying the interlinkages. Watch WE Empower Awardee Sarah’s presentation on her company ECOnsult at the Vital Voices 2020 WEEmpower Pitch Night.
Anne Butterly’s mission is to create a range of innovative, eco-friendly textiles to revolutionize industries that depend on cotton and plastic. She created the world’s first 100 percent biodegradable, disposable towel through Easydry, the company she founded almost 15 years ago. Easydry saves millions of gallons of water globally each year and has rapidly expanded its operations to more than 20 countries. Watch Global Ambassadors Mentee Anne discuss how Easydry is made to be sustainable for hair salons, changing the landscape they currently operate in.
Grace Foster-Reid is an MIT-trained engineer turned beekeeper and entrepreneur. She manages and owns ECOFARMS, a Jamaican company that produces honey and mead that aims to solve social challenges like high rates of youth unemployment. Global Ambassadors Mentee Grace is committed to sustainable beekeeping, and from it realized how precious natural resources are now that she and her community are dependent on the environment and bees for food production. She’s successfully established more than 100 bee colonies and continues to expand her team. Learn more about Grace’s work with ECOFARMS in her article feature in the Jamaica Gleaner.
Michelle Hong is the Co-Founder of Rooftop Republic Urban Farming, a social enterprise creating more livable cities through innovative techniques in urban farming. By integrating closed-loop urban farming systems into city lifestyles, VV GROW alumna Michelle’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of city dwellers by providing better, more sustainable avenues for accessing healthy foods. Since their establishment in 2015, they have transformed 68,000 square feet of idling urban spaces, creating over 61 productive landscapes in Hong Kong and China. Rooftop Republic has also established programming to benefit people from disadvantaged communities or with disabilities including training hearing-impaired individuals to become urban farmers and with the intent to equip them with skills for employment in the urban farming and landscaping sector. Check out Michelle discussion with Alyse Nelson on how COVID-19 has revealed the need for change in food supply chains on the Vital Voices podcast.
Philippa Kelly is the owner of Casitas Tenorio, a small bed and breakfast in rural Costa Rica. With a focus on responsible tourism, VV GROW alumna Philippa promotes sustainable economic and social development in her small community. Part of the guest experience includes visiting the local area as well as an opportunity to undertake volunteer work and give donations to the local community. Additionally, Casitas Tenorio B&B employs the local community and additionally offers personal and professional development opportunities. A growing business, Philippa is committed to integrating sustainable long-term operations in Casitas Tenorio.
Global Leadership Awards Honoree and Vital Voices network member Leah Lizarondo is an inventive social entrepreneur whose innovative food recovery organization engages Americans in the fight to end hunger, eliminate food waste, and combat climate change. As the CEO and Founder of Food Rescue Hero, Leah turned a lifelong passion for food into an inventive model — 412 Food Rescue — that uses technology to link retailers with excess food to distribution volunteers, preventing un-sellable but perfectly good food going to waste. Leah’s impact has helped redirect over 40 million pounds of food with 18,000 volunteers in 12 cities, getting food to those who need it and preventing millions of pounds of carbon emissions in the process. Watch this video to learn more about Leah’s work to end hunger, fight climate change and mobilize volunteers across the country.
VV GROW alumna, Fortune — U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership alumna and Global Leadership Awards honoree Lula Mena developed a passion for crafts after growing up in San Salvador with her grandmother, who was an artist who painted, designed, and created furniture, hats, and other pieces. As her result of that close relationship, Lula spent the early parts of her childhood amongst communities of artisans which led to the founding of her brand, Lula Mena. There, under rules of fair trade, she designs and produces lines of handmade products created by communities of women in rural, high-risk areas. The company also uses eco-friendly materials in the jewelry lines using natural or discarded materials that they repurpose, such as fish scales, natural seeds, copper wire from energy meters and discarded tires. Lula uses her power to empower women by providing them with steady jobs to improve their quality of life, while simultaneously helping the development of their communities and implementing environmentally-conscious practices.
2019–2020 VV Engage fellow Susana Muhamad is a lifelong gender activist running for local council in Bogotà on a climate activism platform. The former Director of Climate Action Planning for Latin America in C40, Susana worked with local governments to implement commitments outlined by the Paris Agreement. As the former Secretary of Environment in Bogotà, she also has experience in working with grassroots communities and the private sector in sustainability. Listen to Susana discuss the big changes that must be made to environmental leadership with Alyse Nelson on the Vital Voices podcast.
Andrea Nava is an environmental activist and nature lover who has worked tirelessly to educate the public about climate change and the environment, search for sustainable solutions, and empower young leaders to create their own environmental projects. At a young age, Vital Voices Voces Que Inspiran Fellow Andrea recognized that Guatemala will be disproportionately impacted by climate change and has made it her mission to train the next generation to conduct their own environmental projects, creating a ripple effect of change. Learn more about how she’s been honored and recognized for her incredible work!
Mavis Nduchwa takes an innovative and sustainable approach to fighting hunger and building sustainable communities in her home country of Botswana. She noticed that the human and wildlife, particularly elephant, conflict was leading to farmers shooting elephants that encroached on their crops. To address this issue, Mavis founded Kalahari Honey, a social enterprise that uses beehives as living fences to keep elephants away from farms, preventing damage by elephants and alleviating the human wildlife conflict in Botswana. Even more, farmers can participate in a buyback program in which farmers can buy the honey produced in the hives protecting their farms. Mavis has cultivated a network of 500 women farmers and is a former WE Empower awardee. Watch WE Empower Awardee Mavis discuss more about her business during the Vital Voices 2020 WEEmpower pitch night.
A bold feminist and climate justice advocate, inaugural VVEngage cohort member Susanne Newton is the Deputy Mayor of Darebin, Australia — a city outside of Melbourne. Upon working with UN Women in Uganda and seeing the strong gender parity in the country’s parliament, Susanne decided to run for public office herself. Now serving on one of the most progressive councils in Australia, Susanne has led the charge to declare the climate crisis a climate emergency. She also co-convenes the Victorian Greens Women’s Network and is using her power to empower women leaders by building a party where women are as confident in leadership positions as men. Check out this feature of Susanne where she discusses how she is leading the change for more women in politics.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an expert in the adaptation and mitigation of indigenous peoples to climate change. She is a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad and President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT). In her role, she fights to bring indigenous voices, practices and experience into the global conversation around the climate crisis — elevating the innovative solutions indigenous peoples have created as the environment changes, and representing the stark impact climate change has on communities that depend on the environment. Hindou is an advocate for the greater inclusion of indigenous people and their knowledge and traditions in the global movement to fight the effects of climate change. Listen to Hindou discuss her passion for brining humanity into climate change dialogue on the Vital Voices podcast.
María Pacheco fights to provide market access to vulnerable communities in Guatemala as a way to transform cycles of poverty into cycles of prosperity. She is the founder of Wakami, a socially- and environmentally-minded fashion accessories brand she created after witnessing the systemic damage caused by the country’s civil war, which lasted over 30 years. Wakami enables women in Guatemala, and other countries facing similar economic challenges, to export handmade accessories created with ancestral Mayan weaving techniques to 20 countries. Maria’s work in climate advocacy and women’s empowerment also led her to help design a $60 million loan granted to Guatemala by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, which enabled more than 300 rural businesses to access global markets. Listen to Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards Honoree María sit down with Alyse Nelson on the Vital Voices Podcast to discuss how she has channeled her positive energy into concrete change in environmental practices.
Isha Patel is the founder and executive director of the Green Sleep Project, a youth-led initiative turning used plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless populations and educating youth on pollution. A junior at Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, Isha is passionate about pollution and climate change, along with their intersections with race, gender, class, and identity. Learn more about the Green Project and how Isha has carried her passion for environmentalism into her activism.
WE Empower Awardee Alison Price campaigns to make positive changes to traditional practices in the construction, waste and mining industries through her mobile soil amelioration and remediation service, SoilCyclers. With over 12 years of experience as a strong, award-winning leader working across three out of the four most male-dominated industries in Australia and the owner of one of the largest full-scale soil recycling operations in Australia, Alison prides herself on her ability to think differently. Her innovative recycling methods help her clients and the environment by reducing waste and minimizing the amount that ends up in landfill, reducing the number of trucks on local roads, and reducing the use of virgin resources. Watch Alison’s presentation on SoilCyclers at the Vital Voices 2020 WEEmpower Pitch Night.
Claudia Renta Ortiz
Vital Voices’ HERlead fellow Claudia Renta Ortiz is passionate about environmentalism, specifically regarding marine ecosystems and biology. She is the founder of The Tinglamigos, a youth organization that protects marine turtles and provides information and facts to inform followers about the importance of the marine ecosystem. Find out more about her work and recognition.
Maria Clara Ruiz Zapata
A strong advocate of sustainable tourism, Maria Clara Ruiz Zapata is a VV GROW alumna and the Managing Director of ZoOming.co, a travel company that creates bespoke and sustainable trips for travelers in Colombia. Her goal is for travelers to discover the beauty of Colombia while also contributing to peaceful and prosperous communities. Experts at ZoOming.co also have years of experience in fields such as history, literature, anthropology, botany, and ecology — contributing to the thoughtful experience Maria’s organization offers.
Brianne West is the founder of Ethique, which manufactures beauty bars and provides waste free alternatives to traditional liquid products, such as shampoo, body lotions and much more. Global Ambassadors Mentee Brianne started her first company at age 19 and has since successfully launched and sold two others. She is passionate about creating a sustainable future, and as such, Ethique is committed to ethical and sustainable practices and is a certified B-Corp. Watch Brianne Discuss how her leadership style has changed in the face of the pandemic, teaching her to trust herself and her activism.
Vital Voices Global Partnership invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges — from gender-based violence to the climate crisis, economic inequities, and more. Over the last 24 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change makers across 182 countries, each of whom are daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.
**These are just a few of the more 18,000 women leaders across our incredible network working against climate change and for a more equal future.