Project Lead: Together for H2OPE
Bondita Acharya is the Director of Purva Bharati Educational Trust and a human rights activist in Northeast India. She has vast grassroots experience working on issues of women’s leadership, climate change, gender, women’s security and human rights. She was part of several fact finding missions to document cases of sexual violence, human rights violations, witch hunting, and conflict situation in the Assam region of India. Bondita has been engaging with UN mechanisms since 2010 in Geneva, New York and Bangkok, and has been part of various international reviews, sessions, and bodies throughout her career. She was also a fellow at the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) at the University of York under their Human Rights Defenders at Risk program from September to December 2015. Bondita is a member of the Steering Committee of Women in Governance (WinG)-India, a Women Human Rights Defenders network, the Coordinating Committee of Asia-Pacific Women Alliance on Peace and Security (APWAPS), and is an advisor to Urgent Action Fund for South Asia.
Crystal is a passionate advocate of gender equality and sustainable development, especially in developing economies. After several years of working in the private sector in a project management and financial management capacity, she obtained her Master’s at the London School of Economics to focus on international development. She worked as an English teacher in Chile, then interned with WaterAid UK and Kiva.org, then helped incorporate climate-resilient measures into an irrigation scheme in Malawi. She then went on to work with Room to Read’s Research, Monitoring and Evaluation team in San Francisco. She loves to explore and you can often find her traveling abroad, hiking around San Francisco or trying something new (like pottery!).
Amira joined Melinda as WEA’s Co-Director in 2007 to expand WEA’s programs, build the WEA team and create a community of support for its work. Active within the NGO community for over 20 years, she has worked for community health, environmental and food justice, LGBTQ, and women’s rights, directing organizations like Julia Butterfly Hill’s Circle of Life and Democracy Matters. She graduated from Colgate University with a degree in Women’s Studies, studied Women and Development at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, and attended Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. She holds certification as a Holistic Health Counselor and brings a holistic approach to all aspects of WEA’s organizational design. Amira’s deepest inspiration comes from her two young sons, and her family of musicians, artists and dedicated community organizers. In her spare time she plays the violin and directs the Social Prophet Choir.
Project Lead: Mexican Women for Mother Earth
Laura is the Executive Director of Semillas, the only women’s fund in Mexico. She received a Masters Degree in International Peace and Security at King’s College, London and graduated from the Colegio de México with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations. Before working at Semillas, Laura was a human rights advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She has collaborated with various civil society organizations on projects which focused on human rights, transitional justice and Latin American drug policies. In 2006, she took part in the presidential campaign of Patricia Mercado, with whom she then worked at the Alternative Voice Foundation (Fundación Voz Alternativa). The following year, she worked at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on the first case in its history. Over the years, Laura has taught international relations at the Tecnológico de Monterrey and has taken part in various workshops and talks about international conflict resolution, human rights and justice procedures in Latin America. She forms part of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders, is a Board Member of Women’s Funding Network (WFN), and serves as advisor to the Gender Advisory Council at the Levi Strauss Foundation and recently at the Global Fund for Women.
Founder, Executive Director
Melinda Kramer is a passionate advocate for social justice, the environment and women’s rights. An environmentalist by training, with a cultural anthropology background, Melinda has lived and worked around the world learning from grassroots leaders on the frontlines of environmental crises. Whether it was the Midwest United States where toxic lead smelters poisoned children, or rural Kenya where girls walked 4 hours to access water instead of an education, or the Arctic where indigenous lands, traditions, and rights were threatened daily by climate change, Melinda encountered the same phenomenon: Women were at the center– uniquely impacted, consistently marginalized, and leading the charge.
In 2005, she set out to bridge the resource gap for grassroots women tackling our world’s most critical environmental efforts. What began as a small convening of 30 women leaders rapidly grew into a thriving global organization of 12 years. WEA’s global team has developed and iterated a unique training framework, equipping 5,000 women with technical, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills, and they in turn have reached over a million people with safe water, energy access, regenerative farming, land rights, and climate protection initiatives.
Before founding Women’s Earth Alliance, Melinda worked in Kenya with CARE International on sustainable agriculture and health projects. Later her work took her throughout the North Pacific Rim with Pacific Environment, building the capacity of grassroots environmental movements in China, the Russian Far East, and Alaska. Melinda built training curricula, led cultural exchanges, and facilitated the International Bering Sea Forum, a long-term collaboration of Russian and Alaskan scientists, policy makers, fisherman, NGOs, and indigenous leaders. At the Natural Capital Institute, Melinda was a key contributor to WiserEarth.org, a global communication platform for NGO leaders. She also co-founded and grew the Global Women’s Water Initiative, equipping grassroots women with training and expertise in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Melinda lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley, California. She is a trained facilitator, an avid hiker, and a lover of languages, speaking passable Spanish along with some Swahili and Mandarin.
Arielle is an international agricultural development professional and entrepreneur. Previously based in Africa and then in Asia, she has designed and managed agricultural and small enterprise development projects with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) since 2008. Now from her home base in Northern California, Arielle works with triple bottom line food companies to build resilient producer relationships and is a CRS Regional Technical Advisor for Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia. Arielle began collaborating with WEA in 2009 and was instrumental in launching WEA’s India Women and Food Sovereignty Initiative. Arielle co-founded Hands of Mothers, an NGO building women’s micro-enterprises globally and is co-owner of the raw juice company Earthjuice. Arielle is a founding Advisory Board Member of Ag Innovation Development Group, a Development Impact Lab (DIL) Practitioner in Residence at UC Berkeley, Kiva Zip Agriculture Ambassador, and a 2014 Fellow of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy. Arielle earned her M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics and an M.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis.
Project Lead: WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project
Olanike Olugboji is an award-winning conservationist and women’s empowerment advocate. Olanike became a founding member of the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) in 2006 where she was a part of co-designing a global organization empowering women environmental leaders around the world. In 2008, Olanike participated in WEA’s first Women and Water Training in Kenya. Equipped with technical skills, entrepreneurship training, and seed funding, she went on to launch her own NGO called Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE). In addition to directing WISE, Olanike is WEA’s Nigeria Project Lead, where she recently led a successful women’s clean cookstoves initiative training 30 women to launch clean cookstoves businesses that created energy access for 9,000 people in the first year.
Olanike is also a correspondent for World Pulse, where she speaks on critical issues like climate change. Her writing has been featured in Time Magazine, and she is involved in a number of leadership and global initiatives, like the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
Program + Operations Manager
Born and raised in Hawai’i, Kahea is passionate about Indigenous peoples rights and a sustainable future for our planet. After graduating from law school with a focus on human rights and Federal Indian law, Kahea joined WEA as a legal research intern, then Coordinator for WEA’s Advocacy Network, before moving on to manage WEA’s programs and operations. She’s a systems girl, and gets nerdy about our design and branding. Kahea’s a huge fan of roadtrips, her dog, and seeing folks do more of what lights them (and the world) up.
Project Lead: Seeds of Resilience
Sunita Rao is an ecologist by training and lives in the Malnad region of Karnataka in India. Her work interests include: Ethnoecology of forest home gardens in the Western Ghats; Designing Learning for Life modules in formal and non-formal education landscapes; Viability of nano scale, sustainable livelihoods & enterprises; Conservation and community mobilization in gendered spaces. Sunita has worked in Delhi, Pune, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. She was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2009 where she worked on agroecological issues. She has been living and working on a forest farm near Sirsi since 2002. Sunita is the founder trustee of Vanastree – a women farmers’ seed saving collective based in Sirsi.
Programs + Operations Intern
We give thanks to the members of our team through the years– whose vision, tenacity, and brilliance are at the heart of WEA.
Maame Afon, Celia Alario, Nikila Badua, Stephanie Bernstein, Zach Behar, Ethan Boehme, Cath Brozena, Gemma Bulos, Heather Burbeau, Annie Burke, Jennifer Carter-Scott, Rucha Chitnis, Orli Cotel, Temra Costa, Angela Mooney D’Arcy, Nitin Das, Kath Delaney, Malia Everette, Sophie Fried, Stacey Frost, Maeanna Glenn, Nell Greenberg, Lisa Gurwitch, Eileen Harrington, Jan Hartsough, Paul Hawken, Sandra Hay, Nick Heldfond, Julia Butterfly Hill, Rachel Humphrey, Susan Kamprath, Arshinder Kaur, Rachael Sydney Knight, John Knox, Shannon Laliberte, Leah Lamb, Scott Leonard, Susan Ma, Angela Mason, Catriona MacGregor, Brittany McCormick, AJ Pell, Dave Phillips, Erica Priggen, Heidi Quante, Carole Roberts, Beth Robertson, Gaya Roshan, Ben Schick, Karly Sherwood, Caitlin Sislin, Reetu Sogani, Pandora Thomas, Joshua Vogelstein, Janet Wallace, Karri Winn, Earth Island Institute, WEA’s founding mothers, and all our devoted fellows, global peers, exchange participants, interns, and volunteers: WEA was built in your loving hands.