This year, for International Women’s Day on 8 March, the United Nations will recognise the contribution of women and girls who are leading the way to build a sustainable future for all.
International Women’s Day presents us with an opportunity to celebrate the political, social, economic and cultural achievements of women and girls around the world. The theme for this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. The climate crisis and gender inequality are two core issues at the heart of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The global effort to advance gender equality and tackle climate change at the same time is one of the greatest challenges to humanity in the 21st century. Figures indicate 80% of people displaced by climate change and climate related disasters are women and girls, while 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women. It is crucial that sustainability and gender equality efforts globally go hand-in-hand. That is why, ahead of International Women’s Day this year, we are looking at some of the UK’s female trailblazers contributing to sustainable and climate friendly initiatives that are translating into effective climate action.
May Al-Karooni is the award-winning founder and CEO of Globechain, an online marketplace that connects enterprises to charities, small businesses and people to redistribute unneeded items. She realised no one had digitised the waste industry when the bank she worked for moved offices across the road. Rather than moving their office furniture, most of which was in perfect condition, they disposed of it all and purchased brand new furniture. Seeing this immense waste was a revelation; she knew there were charities and people that needed these items. This revelation resulted in the birth of Globechain. Speaking about International Women’s Day and being a female entrepreneur, May Al-Karooni emphasised “there is no overnight success or at least there are very few”. She emphasised that women especially “can be very hard on ourselves; we have more to prove.” Her dedication to a world without waste has grown Globechain to become the biggest reuse marketplace worldwide, with over 10,000 members operating in the UK, Spain, the UAE and New York.
Mya-Rose Craig is a British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist and diversity activist. She has been campaigning for environmental protection and conservation for indigenous people, as well as biodiversity, since she was 8 years old. At age 11, she started a popular blog about birds called BirdGirl and by 17, she became the youngest person to see half the birds in the world. In 2016, she founded Black2Nature, an organisation leading the fight for equal access to the natural environment for Visible Minority Ethnic people, organising teen nature camps and high-profile conferences. Since then Mya, now 20 years old, was listed in The Guardian’s 10 everyday heroes fighting to save the planet. She was nominated in Birdwatch Magazine Birder’s Choice Awards as Conservation Hero of the Year with Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, coming joint second. In February 2020, she became the youngest person in the UK to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Bristol for her five years campaigning and pioneering change through Black2Nature. She has been described as “a champion for diversity and equity in the environmental and conservation sector”.
Safia Minney is an award winning social entrepreneur and pioneer of sustainable Fair Trade fashion. In 1991, she co-founded People Tree, an online fashion company dedicated to principles of fair trade, fair wages, good working conditions, transparency, environmental best practice and gender equality. She is the author of 9 books and she received an MBE for services to the fashion industry and Fair Trade industry in 2009. She is recognised worldwide as a sustainable fashion influencer, developing a process of capacity building for Fair Trade and social enterprises in Asia, Africa and Latin America. She also consults on sustainable business, supply chains and marketing. Her clients include fashion companies and pioneer brands in sustainability ranging from beauty to construction. Speaking about International Women’s Day, Safia recalls the progress women have made and the attention that the ‘me-too’ movement has drawn to women’s plight in the global south. As Safia explains, “We need to become their voice and put pressure on businesses and governments to reform our out-of-date trading and financial systems to reflect human rights and sustainability.”
Daisy Kendrick is an award-winning social entrepreneur, author and global speaker. She is the co-founder of Ocean Generation, an inclusive global movement that exists to restore a sustainable relationship between humanity and our oceans. Frustrated at the lack of awareness and action being taken by millennials and Gen Z to protect our climate and oceans, she created Ocean Generation to utilise media and technology to inform, educate and change behaviour at a global scale. The organisation has expanded into grass-roots action with initiatives empowering young people from climate vulnerable communities. She is also passionate about promoting careers in science to girls. “Academically, girls are brilliant at science, but they don’t choose careers in that area as society leads them to assume that they won’t be good at them, or that they are male-dominated”, something Daisy says she wishes to change.
Becoming equal players
In many countries around the world, women and girls are effective and powerful leaders and change-makers for climate adaptation and mitigation. It is important to celebrate and highlight their sustainability initiatives to empower more women and girls to become equal players in the decision-making related to climate change. Without gender equality today, a sustainable and equal future remains beyond our reach.
United Nations Cinema will hold a screening of ‘Picture A Scientist’ for International Women’s Day in Brussels on 8 March 2022, to get your free ticket please visit the Ciné-ONU Facebook page.