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Women Making Waves and Saving The World
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From the all-female team of scientists who isolated the coronavirus to climate heroes, activists and progressive policymakers… here are some women you need to know about. Women who are making or have made waves of change for the better. Who have put their talents to use to serve humanity. Women who have sacrificed their own right to schooling to fight for the climate and our future. Who have risked their lives to fight for other’s right to an education! And most importantly, who have triumphed in the face of adversity. Regardless of financial, social and health hurdles. Like that Motown song used to say… you just can’t stop a woman from doing what she wanna do!

Concetta Castilletti – Key Scientist Coronavirus Pandemic

Concetta Castilletti is a Southern Italian scientist. She was the first to isolate Coronavirus’ genetic code, together with a nearly all-female team at the Spallanzani hospital in Rome. What’s remarkable about her team is that, prior to the discovery, most were working on a temporary contract for just above minimum wage. Yet, they managed to carry out the vital research that lead to discovering the 2019-nCoV/Italy-INMI1 (Italian strain of the Coronavirus). The discovery has proved to be pivotal in the efforts that are been carried out to find a cure to the viral infection.

After her achievement, Castilletti was accoladed by the Italian press, notorious for its pervasive sexism. She wasn’t impressed by this sudden rise to fame and was very vocal about her feminist views. The scientist stated that gender equality in her marriage was the reason behind her successful career. She declared she’d “been lucky to have a husband who was willing to get up at night and change the children’s nappies”. Castilletti also revealed that, unlike many other scientists around the world, she had previously failed to isolate the H1N1 virus, responsible for the flu epidemic. “Isolating viruses is something that requires skills, but also luck”. An inspiration in modesty and perseverance.

Greta Thunberg – Climate Hero of the Decade

Thunberg started a school strike in her native country of Sweden when she was only 15. But she wasn’t just another teenager trying to skiff off school. She wanted to draw attention to the biggest emergency of our time: climate change. And she raised her voice so loud it is now being heard, all over the world. Now 17, she’s been blazing the path for climate activism, leading strikes and marches to make the powers that be listen. Her speech at the 2019 UN Climate Change Summit last year will go down in history for being the “most powerful four-minute speech ever heard”, according to philosopher Pete Singer.

Our young climate hero’s impressive accomplishments seem unending: she’s crossed the Atlantic on a solar-powered yacht to avoid the carbon emissions of air travel. She’s managed to gather millions of supporters worldwide, most of which are Gen Zs who team up with her on regular climate strikes. The strikes have temporarily moved online in order to face the Coronavirus epidemic. “The climate crisis is the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced, but for now (depending on where you live) we’ll have to find new ways to create change and advocate”, says Greta. Follow her on Twitter.

Malala Youfsafzai – Education Activist Against the Taliban Regime

Malala Yousafzai started writing a BBC blog about her life as an 11-year-old schoolgirl under the Taliban regime. Over the course of three years, she risked her own and her family’s life. She published countless posts under the name of Gul Makai [“cornflower”], in a region where girls were being prohibited schooling. Malala defied the violent, patriarchal regime by speaking out publicly in favour of girls’ fundamental right to receive an education. She was shot in 2012 when a gunman from the Pakistani Taliban boarded the school bus she was on. She survived after many months of operations and rehabilitation, most of which were conducted in the UK.

Since then, Malala has thrived becoming a worldwide author and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate on the planet. This young woman is an inspiring role model for any person who intends to make a change in the world. She has defied one of the most bloody regimes on Earth and has risked her life to protect basic human rights. Her most famous quote is: “Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” She is now studying a PPE at the University of Oxford. The work she carries out with The Malala Fund aims to put the 130 million girls who are out of school into education. Malala is another great example that no matter your age or circumstances, you have the power within you to do great things.

Ann Simpson – Lobbying Big Oil for Global Change

Anne Simpson is director of global governance at CalPERS, one of the world’s biggest pension funds. Unlike many top dogs of the corporate world, she’s made fighting for the environment one of her main assets. She’s used her power to lobby some of the biggest corporate giants to understand the importance of climate change. And hence, to disclose the cost it will have on their profits. Knowing very well that, to steer the planet off fossil fuels, “money talks” louder than words.

Simpson also leads Climate Action 100+, launched in 2017 by 450 investors with overall global assets of 40 trillion dollars. It’s an initiative aimed at negotiating with the world’s 100 biggest greenhouse-gas emitters to make a change. And she means business: both mining major Glencore and oil-and-gas giant Shell have committed to achieving emission-reduction targets. She is the author of “The Greening of Global Investment”, published by the Economist. And she’s also the co-author of “Fair Shares: The Future of Shareholder Power and Responsibility,” published by Oxford University Press. Her motto is “There’s no business that can function without a healthy eco-system”.

Miranda Wang– Revolutionizing Plastics

Miranda Wang is one of the youngest CEOs in Silicon Valley. Her company, BioCellection, is ahead of the plastics recycling game. It transforms the most commonly used and unrecyclable plastics into new materials using pioneering chemical technology. Her passion for recycling was sparked by a school field trip to a waste–management facility. The vast amount of waste she saw destined for landfill gave her the impetus to start her career in waste management.
“[Plastics] are just natural compounds and natural carbons tied together in an unnatural way, and once you disrupt that, you can use those natural building blocks to make anything,” said Wang to Time.

Thanks to state-of-the-art chemical technology, useful and biodegradable products can be made from plastic garbage. Biocellection’s pilot program was run in one of California’s biggest waste-management facilities. It has already received recognition from, among others, the U.N. Environment Programme. Wang’s ambitious vision is to bring her pioneering technology to cities all over the world.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim– International Indigenous Advocate

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim advocates for the inclusion of Indigenous people’s knowledge and traditions in the global fight against climate change. She belongs to the Mbororo tribe in Chad, who currently face a dire situation. They live by Lake Chad, which has lost 90 % of its surface area in just 40 years. Because of the environmental crisis, Lake Chad has stopped being a water source for 40 million people. The scarcity of this essential resource has sparked conflicts along the lake’s shores. Ibrahim was the first to engender essential dialogue among the area’s cultures and communities. With whom she is now creating a 3D map of the environmentally fragile region. The map will inform conservation and resource management while promoting the region’s security.

Ibrahim’s tireless activism gives a voice to many people who would otherwise be voiceless. Her work has forced governments and the private sector to pay attention to indigenous communities on the local and on an international level. Ibrahim has won numerous honours, including the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award. Her vision is that of a society which integrates Indigenous knowledge with Western science to create a healthier planet. She’s been appointment UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate and is also a Conservation International Senior Indigenous Fellow.

Wangari Maathai – first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize

The late Wangari Maathai is a true inspiration when it comes to women’s empowerment and protecting the Earth. She founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the 1970s, bringing trees that had been decimated for firewood, plantations or farm use. Apart from doing so nearly single-handedly, she also became a prominent advocate for women’s rights, prison reform, and projects to combat poverty. In 2004, she became the first African woman and the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her conservation efforts. Mathaai was well aware that protecting the environment means to protect the future of the world and of her people. And she did so with a passion and strength that remain strong in the collective’s heart and minds today.

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13 / 03 / 2020 // Written by Sylvia Helen Goodrick
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