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Women’s History Month: 3 (s)heroes that have been saving the planet for decades

The United Nations estimates that 80% of those who have been displaced by climate change are women. Global warming disproportionately affects women and deepens existing inequality. It might be surprising, as climate change has always been perceived as a global problem. Yet, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less or no access to basic human rights (e.g. acquire their own land or even move freely), resources, education, and information.

This is only one of a million reasons why women need to be involved in decision-making processes. Dedicating this blog to the Women's History Month, I would like to praise women leading the fight against climate change and showing remarkable resilience around the world. Here are three legendary environmentalists and their unique stories of making the world a better place.

ISATOU CEESAY, well known as the Queen of Recycling. Growing up in the Gambia, Ceesay witnessed extreme poverty and ecological crisis in her region. There were no weekly rubbish collections to take away waste, so plastic ended up everywhere – in rivers, on the streets, and off the coast. Ceesay’s neighbors were so fed up with all the waste around their houses they started burning plastic, releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere. In 1997, when Ceesay was 25 years old, she initiated a movement called One Plastic Bag in the Gambia that educated Gambian women on how to recycle plastic waste and then turn it into sellable products. She set up a recycling centre and taught others to cut plastic bags into long strips that can be repurposed into new bags, toys, and jewelry, providing fellow villagers with income. Since then, the movement has been promoting the importance of plastic recycling and discouraging the act of littering.

SYLVIA EARLE, now 85, is an oceanographer who spent decades exploring the world’s oceans and protecting them from pollution, overfishing, and other threats. She took her first dive more than 50 years ago and has published more than 200 publications regarding the degradation of nature and conducted over 100 oceanic expeditions since then. Dr. Earle is the president of the Mission Blue organization that informs the public and decision-makers about ocean issues. Mission Blue introduces communications campaigns that shed light on so-called Hope Spots (a worldwide network of marine protected areas) – through documentaries, social media, traditional media, etc. The organization, led by Dr. Earle, includes more than 200 ocean conservation groups and carries out regular expeditions building support for the protection of vital ecosystems with one main purpose – restoring the ocean and fighting climate change.

MARINA SILVA is the main dissenting voice of Brazil’s environmental policies. Since the 1980s, she has been advocating for saving the “lungs of the world” – the Amazon rainforest. After her colleague was assassinated for peacefully protecting the rainforest from government control, 30-years-old Marina Silva started her career as a politician and fought for environmental protection, sustainable development, and social justice ever since. From 2003 to 2008, Silva served as Brazil’s Minister of the Environment – deforestation decreased by almost 60% due to her environmental impact. She helped to establish a 2-million-hectare reserve managed by traditional populations, created 24 million hectares of conservation, and fought against politicians that exert violence against communities whose properties and public lands were taken away. For years, Silva represents voices of those who are usually silenced and reminds the leaders that “caring for the environment has no political ideology” – it is a social justice issue.

Each of these women has changed the way we see the world – building alternative models of community that prioritize sustainability and cooperation. They are fearless and deserve more recognition for their inspiring efforts. GreenMo. thanks and celebrates the activists who continue to fight for the right cause.

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