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Meet the Interns: Hey there, Tegan!

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We have such an amazing team of young leaders working behind the scenes to support our global programs and home-base operations as part of WEA’s Internship Program this spring!
 
Meet Tegan, the passionate and multi-gifted force who has jumped right in to support our growth with her artistry, professionalism and skill in this exciting time for WEA. We are so lucky to have her on our team this semester before she heads off to grad school (congratulations, Tegan!) to deeper her impact for communities and the earth.
 

Name: Tegan Stuart
Hometown: Portland, OR

If you had a superpower, what would it would be (and why):
I would either want the ability to make plants grow or manipulate natural materials, kind of like an Earthbender from Avatar. I think I could make the world a better place with this gift and maybe keep some of my houseplants alive for more than a few months.

Why did you want to intern with WEA?
I hope to enter a career in the nonprofit sector someday and I want to have experience with an organization whose values I align with. WEA’s mission and the way it is implemented is appealing in terms of capacity building, empowerment, and responsiveness. I admire how socially responsible WEA is and I would like to take these values and experiences into my long term career.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I know it sounds cliche, but my mother inspires me so much. She owns a small business and she works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. She taught me to be compassionate, but also firm when necessary.

Why women and why the environment?
Much of my background has been in interpersonal violence prevention, which disproportionately impacts female identifying individuals. The empowerment and support of women is key to preventing violence and to enriching a community to its brightest potential. I also strongly believe that the world needs many more female leaders and I can’t wait to see how all the amazing women around me change the world.

The environment it also important to me in terms of its direct implications for human health and the reality of environmental violence. Environmental neglect will always unfairly impact marginalized communities and in order to support social justice and health equity, environmental advocacy and consciousness are extremely important.

What does your life outside WEA look like?
I am currently in my last year of undergraduate studies at Saint Mary’s College of California. I am studying health science and creative writing so I divide most of my time between laboratories and coffee shops. I am on the executive team for Women in Science and Engineering Club (WiSE) and The Lounge, which is a diversity focused open mic night that takes place monthly in the intercultural center. I am also actively involved in the Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape. When I’m not in class or organizing club events I love to draw, paint, listen to podcasts, write poetry and fiction, read novels and comics, and finally practice guitar.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
Every couple of months I take BART to Embarcadero and I spend a Sunday afternoon in the ferry building. I usually spend a few hours browsing the farmers market and looking for a new read at Book Passage.

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I’ve been reading a fantasy series called Throne of Glass, however I am thinking of taking a break to reread my favorite series: the Raven Cycle. I also have been itching to start Children of Blood and Bone.

Meet the Interns: Oh hey, Selena!

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Each semester, WEA works with a cohort of excited and dedicated interns who join us to support our staff and the women we partner with in deeply impactful ways. They help us tell the story of our work, uplift the women leaders we work with around the world, engage with our supporters, bring their perspectives and energy to our office and operations, and so much more. We’re always so honored to have their touch strengthening the core of WEA’s work, and to be able to invest in their leadership as they continue to create change in the world.

This semester, one of the incredible young women we get to work with is Selena Neptune-Bear, a junior at Dartmouth College from the Penobscot Indian Reservation. Selena brings so much skill, integrity and dedication to her work and the things she’s passionate about (and she also has great taste in music). It’s such a privilege to have her on the team!

Name: Selena Neptune-Bear
Hometown: Indian Island, Maine

If you had a superpower, it would be (and why):
If I had a superpower, I would want the ability to speak every language. I love traveling and learning about other cultures, along with sharing my own. I think I would be able to meet so many interesting people and learn so much.

Why did you want to intern with WEA?
I am a Native American and Women and Gender Studies major, hoping to pursue an independent research study on the epidemic of violence against Indigenous women. And so, I first heard about the Women’s Earth Alliance through their Violence on the Land, Violence on our Bodies report and toolkit. I was doing a research paper for my Native American law and literature class and used the report, in large, to shape my argument. The connections drawn in this project were ingenious and I just fell in love with it.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
My biggest inspiration, right now, has to be congresswoman Sharice Davids. Davids, a Ho-Chunk tribal member became one of the first native American women elected to congress with New Mexico’s Deb Haaland, during this past election. She is also the first LGBT person to represent Kansas. However, it is her confident and unapologetic attitude that inspires me. Davids is not only intelligent but versatile. She is an activist, lawyer, former women’s MMA fighter, and stands up for human equality. Her drive to make it to congress, and be among the first to provide representation for native women, is something that gives me hope.

Why women and why the environment?
As a Penobscot woman, the environment is very much tied to my identity, shaping ceremonies, my tribe’s creation story, and providing my people with sustenance. And so, my culture places great importance on the environment and our role as caregivers and protectors. Additionally, I come from a matrilineal society, and so, the value and power of women has been instilled in me from a young age. To find an environmental organization that places the power of leadership in the hands of women was like coming home.

What does your life outside WEA look like?
As a full-time student, my life outside of WEA can be fairly chaotic. At Dartmouth, I am involved in our Native American Program, a member of our Movement Against Violence organization, along with Inclusivity and Diversity Chair of my sorority, Alpha Phi. I work with America Reads, traveling to nearby third grade classrooms to read and spend time with them. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, being outdoors, or beading earrings.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
I am new to the area. But I love visiting the Marina, and being by the ocean, along with reading in the Botanical Gardens near Golden Gate Park. I have been exploring and trying to take in as much as I can. However, I am from Maine, where the temperature is in the negatives this time of the year. And so, I think my favorite thing is not having to spend an hour brushing snow off my car and hoping I don’t freeze in the process.

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I am currently reading The Hate You Give, a book written by Angie Thomas. It is about a sixteen-year-old girl and her life “between two worlds.” It addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, and is so captivating. I love a wide range of music. I currently made a playlist for a skiing trip that I haven’t stopped listening to, that includes artists, like Carlos Santana, Redbone, Shaggy, J. Cole, Slightly Stoopid, and The Allman Brothers Band.

Meet the interns: Hi, Monzerrat!

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Wondering who is working behind the scenes to support our programs and operations this fall? Meet Monzerrat! Monzerrat is a passionate young leader with a soft-spoken way about her, who has readily jumped in to optimize our systems and support our growth and international projects. We are so lucky to have her on our team this semester and can’t wait to see the far-reaching impact she has for WEA women and the environment!

 

Name: Monzerrat Loza
Hometown: La Quinta, CA

If you had a superpower, it would be:
I would want to have the ability to communicate with animals! If I were ever in a situation with a “dangerous” animal I could speak to it and know how it is feeling.

Why did you want to intern/volunteer with WEA?
I wanted to work with an organization that does empowering environmental work and on top of that works to empower women on a international level. I have found many times that organizations emphasize feeling a specific environmental problem or a social justice one, but WEA explores the intersections of both and I find that exciting and motivating.

Tell us about a woman or women-led movement that who inspires you.
The biggest inspiration throughout my entire life has always been my mom. She is the strongest person I know. She left everything behind in Mexico, learned a new language, took side-jobs as a house cleaner, and supported myself and my three sisters all on her own. She is the person I aspire to be like.

Why women and why the environment?
First and foremost, we are nothing without a clean, healthy environment and this directly intersects with women’s health. Women face a greater biological burden from the impacts that arise from climate change and substances humans put out into the environment.

What does your life outside WEA look like?
I just recently graduated from UC Berkeley and I am trying to figure out what I want to do with my life post-graduation. I enjoy warm weather and those are the days I like to take walks and find a park to sit at and read.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
My favorite thing to do in the Bay is to explore good food spots with my friends once in a while, or to visit Dolores Park.

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I am slowly but surely making my way through Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. I find that I really enjoy Latino writers that dabble in magical realism and this is a great example of this genre. I am also currently watching the fourth season of X Files.

Meet the Interns: Hey, Alana!

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One of the best parts of doing what we do is meeting and working with the next generation of change-makers committed to a healthy and thriving Earth through our internship program. We’re honored to have had a chance to work with Alana this fall. Keep an eye out for her — she’s poised have a beautiful and lasting impact for women and our communities!

Name: Alana Young
Hometown: San Mateo, CA
 
If you had a superpower, it would be (and why): 
I would love to be able to fly so I can travel all over the world (and avoid Bay Area traffic!)
 
Why did you want to intern/volunteer with WEA?
I am passionate about environmental issues, global health, and women’s empowerment, and I think these issues are all deeply connected, so interning with WEA seemed like the perfect way to integrate all of my values into impactful work.
 
Tell us about a woman or women-led movement that who inspires you. 
I am extremely inspired by my grandmother. She grew up during a time when women were discouraged from going to school, but she still went to college and fiercely encouraged my sister and I to pursue our education and passions because she knew that education is vital for improving one’s life.
 
Why women and why the environment?
I profoundly agree with the way WEA frames this issue: when women thrive, the earth thrives. The environment and women are uniquely linked in that they are both beautiful sources of nourishment and life, yet they are often taken for granted and abused. If we can reverse our extractivist mentality about both women and the environment, I think we can mend past harms born of ignorance, selfishness, and inequality to ensure that women and the earth thrive far into the future.
 
What does your life outside WEA look like?
My life outside of WEA includes a lot of reading in bed with my dog, exploring San Francisco on weekends, taking care of my plants, and spending as much time as I can outside hiking and camping.
 
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
I love to explore the diverse art and culture that the Bay Area has to offer. You can usually find me on some form of public transportation trying to get to a museum, concert, restaurant, or art fair.
 
What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I am currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which is extremely important for anyone who has ever benefited from modern medical advancements to read so they can understand the deep intersections and inequalities involved with race, gender, education, class, and health) and a trilogy by Philip Pullman. For comic relief I have been watching Broad City and The Good Place. I am listening to Shakey Graves, Kendrick Lamar, and several podcasts including Nancy, Ear Hustle, and The Moth (all highly recommended!!).

Meet Binta: Clean Cookstove Entrepreneur and Inspiring Leader

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Binta (with glasses) at the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training.

Binta Yahaya is a member of the Women of Vision Development Initiative (WVDI), an NGO active in grassroots entrepreneurship, community mobilization and environmental advocacy in Lere Local Government, a rural town in Kaduna State, Nigeria. She was part of a team that successfully led women to advocate for changes to land inheritance laws and campaigned for political inclusion of women in wards and village councils. She also promoted tree planting for erosion control and anti-desertification campaigns, trained women to use organic manure for fertilizing farmlands to mitigate the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers, and advocated for household sanitation and personal hygiene among women in rural areas as a means of controlling the spread of communicable diseases.

Binta primarily used a traditional firewood stove for all her cooking needs but became interested in our WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training Program when she began to recognize her cooking fuel must be toxic. She said “on the top part of the stove, there is accumulated soot”, which she imagined was “dangerous to inhale.”  She became aware of the health, environmental, and livelihood problems such as air pollution, illness and disproportionate negative impacts on girls and women in her community stemming from this traditional method of cooking and wanted to bring home a solution.

Upon being selected to participate in our Clean Cookstoves Training, Binta received technical and entrepreneurship skills training, a seed grant, ongoing peer support, and access to a global network of women leaders like herself. After the first week of capacity-building training, Binta was inspired by the life-saving importance of the clean cookstove technology and immediately started selling. She returned to her community with greater knowledge of the health, safety and security risks associated with cooking with firewood and gained credibility in clean energy, clean cookstove options and utilization. By the time Binta returned for the second week of training, she had already sold 70 clean cookstoves to her local community!

Despite losing her father shortly after the second week of training, Binta managed to channel her grief and energy into becoming the first woman entrepreneur in our program to reach our target of 120 clean cookstoves sold within five months. One of Binta’s customers used to spend 200 Naira ($0.55 USD) on firewood every day but, since buying a clean cookstove, she repurposes the 150 Naira she saves every day to buy fabric for her new clothing enterprise. Another customer was frequently treated for eye irritation from prolonged exposure to smoke. Since buying a clean cookstove from Binta, her eyes are no longer irritated and she is able to save the money she previously spent on medicine.

But Binta didn’t stop there! After recognizing the primary market in her community was made up of artisanal farmers, she embarked on a complementary business venture to produce and sell charcoal briquettes made from any unused agricultural waste, which can be used by households as a clean source of fuel for cooking and heating. With the $50-120 profit she earns from selling clean cookstoves each month, she has been able to invest in new machinery for mixing, molding and cutting to help streamline the charcoal briquette making process. For perspective on the success of her business, one of these machines costs roughly $800-1,000 USD. Binta now has her own growing business and has become recognized as a leader and role model for young girls by both women and men in her community. This is especially significant in a society where women rarely hold such accolades.

Binta has also designed her own version of a clean cookstove, modeled after one of the current cookstoves on the market (Nenu cookstove). The dimensions of the stove are a bit smaller and, uniquely, has two compartments instead of one.  This extra, lower compartment gives a woman the added flexibility to bake bread or dry fish in the compartment while she is cooking. She had a prototype made by a local artisan, which she is currently testing with the Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (NACC).  She gifted the first prototype to our partner, WISE (Women’s Initiative to Sustainable Environment), as a sign of gratitude. “You have already changed my life but you don’t know it…because If I had to pay for what I learned from you, I don’t think I could afford it. I have no words to say thank you.”

For more information on our WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, visit our project page and to learn more about WISE’s work, please visit their website.