BONN, GERMANY (March 8, 2021) – As the world enters the last decade to prevent irreversible damage from climate change, women are challenging gender norms to secure the future of ecosystems – sometimes at great personal risk. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) highlights 16 female leaders working to protect and restore the global natural capital through science, finance, policymaking, journalism and land rights, among others.
From the cloud forests of Latin America to Asia’s financial systems to African metropolises, women environmental activists are leading the way into this year’s pivotal UN talks on Biodiversity and Climate Change – daring economic and political powers, citizens and consumers, to play their part in stopping cataclysmic global heating, mass extinction and the loss of livelihoods. If current trends continue, 95 percent of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050 and 1 million species could disappear in the next few years, further jeopardizing planetary and human health.
The outstanding contributions of these women, aged 13 to 86, are also aligned with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration starting this year; the UN Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the climate action pathways outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and pledges for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Financier Durreen Shahnaz has channeled hundreds of millions of investment dollars toward positive social and environmental outcomes by founding the world’s first social stock exchange and Asia’s largest crowdfunding platforms for impact investing.
Luxembourg’s Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development Carole Dieschbourg played a key negotiating role in creating the pivotal Paris Agreement, helped transform her country’s transportation and energy systems toward sustainability, and is working to position Luxembourg as a global center for sustainable finance.
Pioneering nature photographer Cristina Mittermeier has captured pivotal images that have helped convey the impacts of climate change to a global audience, while Ibaloi activist Joji Cariño fights tirelessly for Indigenous rights recognition and biodiversity protection in the Philippines. “We are all future ancestors, challenged to renew the earth for coming generations,” she said at a Global Landscapes Forum event on biodiversity last year. “This is humanity’s joint endeavour to save our home.”
Youth climate action leader Varshini Prakash, who served on President Joe Biden’s climate task force during his campaign, has used her voice and platform to highlight the importance of centering the experiences of diverse and marginalized peoples in environmental activism and work. “Those closest to the pain can speak toward the solutions that we need with the greatest clarity,” she said at a recent GLF Live session. “It is absolutely essential that those folks have a place in our movements, otherwise we’re going to have major blind spots.”
The women who feature in this year’s list are: Durreen Shahnaz, Carole Dieschbourg, Cristina Mittermeier, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Erica Armah Bra-Bulu Tandoh, Jane Goodall, Joji Cariño, Jonna Mazet, Patricia Zurita, Sahana Ghosh, Sônia Guajajara, Sumarni Laman, Susan Chomba, Vanessa Nakate, Varshini Prakash and Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr.
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