A New Generation of Activists: Wonder Girls Book

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We’re always on the lookout for inspiring reads, and we’ve got one we can’t wait to share! Wonder Girls: Changing Our World is a call to action that shares the stories of 90 courageous young women activists from around the world who are boldly stepping forward to protect our Earth and uplift communities.

Author Paola Gianturco set out with her 11-year-old granddaughter and co-author, Alex Sangster, to uplift the voices and stories of these young women, and weave them together into a powerful anthology about truly being the change they wanted to see in the world.

“As girls came into their early teens, they were so outraged at the social injustices that they experienced and observed that they marshaled that outrage into activity. They tended to cluster in groups and find power and strength in numbers. I saw that they were causing real change, and I wanted to document it.” — Paola Gianturco, author

Paola traveled for three years and spent time with 15 different girl-led non-profits, documenting and photographing their stories. She worked with interpreters throughout her solo travels who helped to create space for the girls themselves to ensure their voices were portrayed authentically. Paola’s journey took her to across the world, from Malawai to Indonesia, Krygistan to India, and to the United States as well.

What if we told you that Bali’s government is working to be plastic-free by 2018 based on the initiative of two sisters aged 10 and 12 years old? Or that the youth of the Shaheen Women’s Center in India create art that influences police surveillance in high harassment and molestation zones? These are just some of the stories featured Wonder Girls which show that change is not only possible, but it is most impactful when it comes from the ground up with visionary women leading the way.

“These are all women who are actively changing the world, starting in their own communities, and just as you all encourage support for the kinds of issues that the women in my books are supporting, my books also encourages readers to take action on behalf of women and girls they are championing.”  — Paola Gianturco, author


Paola has published six other titles and had her images exhibited at the United Nations, UNESCO, and The Field Museum/Chicago. Her granddaughter, Alex Sangster, a wonder girl herself, launched a children’s program at a global poverty conference in Mexico alongside her sister. Alex contributed meaningful and action-oriented sections at the end of each chapter of Wonder Girls titled, “How You can Change Our World” and conducted many of the interviews herself. She also contributed much of the photography for the Los Angeles and Mexico regions.

You can check out more of the book on the website Wonder Girls Book.

Olanike Olugboji on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Olanike Olugboji, the Founder/Director of Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment, and WEA Project Lead for the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstove Project in Nigeria, recently attended the Inclusive Global Summer Institute at the Sié Center in Denver, Colorado. This gathering brings together women-identifying activists from around the world for a three day workshop that creates space for women to grow in their leadership skills for promoting peace, security, and human rights.

Olanike — who is also a WEA Founding Mother — has forged an amazing path for sustainability and economic independence for women in her community and beyond. She has initiated and held capacity building trainings for over 3,000 women to develop entrepreneurial skills to run their own Clean Cookstove businesses. These businesses provide the opportunity for women to have a positive impact on the environment, their health, and their household savings.

You can listen to Olanike speak on gender equality and women’s empowerment in this video from the Inclusive Global Leadership Summer Institute. You can also follow her initiatives on World Pulse.

“We can’t wait for leadership to be handed to us, we have what it takes. And we can move from that place of seeing ourselves as victims or people who are seeking help and change, to people who are creating change, people who are leading change. And that is why women must rise up” Olanike Olugboji.

Meet the interns: Hey, Sally!

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A highlight of the work we do here at WEA is that we are fortunate enough to do so alongside the women who will continue to lead our communities and movements for years to come. That’s why our internship program is so important to us — because it gives us a chance to meet women like Sally! Sally will be joining us this semester to support our Programs + Operations, with a particular focus on supporting projects like the Ripple Academy and the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project.

Please help us welcome Sally to the WEA family!

Name: Sally Morton
Hometown: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
 
If you had a superpower, it would be (and why): My superpower would be able to truly feel what it’s like to be another person or another being whether that be a plant, animal, or rock. This would deepen my understanding of this world and what it means to be here. It would grow my capacity for empathy for all that exists outside of myself.
 
Why did you want to intern with WEA? My senior year of college, I met the founder, Melinda, at an event with Vandana Shiva. She gave me her business card of the Women’s Earth Alliance and I just couldn’t believe a nonprofit like this existed! Women’s and environmental empowerment are huge passions of mine and I’ve always felt they’re very connected. I looked WEA up online and was so inspired by the beautiful work they’re doing, I became eager to get involved!
 
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. A woman who inspires me is Stefani Germanotta, known as Lady Gaga. She’s maybe not the most obvious role model from first impression, but her self-love attitude and heart filled activism has inspired me since high school. She is a fierce advocate of mental health, LGBTQ+ rights and suicide prevention. She is extremely intelligent and weaves her courage, huge heart, and passion for justice into all of her public work.
 
Why women and why the environment? I’ve known in my bones since a young age that the disempowerment of women and the disempowerment of the environment are inextricably linked. The work towards a thriving future must be intersectional. Our planet is a huge system and the various systems of oppression and inequality are bound together and must be approached from all sides.
 
What does your life outside WEA look like? I’m starting a Chaplaincy Training at SF General Hospital, providing non-denominational spiritual care to any patients who want it. I work as a research assistant for Vijaya Nagarajan, a professor at the University of San Francisco. I also teach yoga and landscape. When I’m not working I love to read, go for long walks, meditate, hang out with friends and my partner Graham.
 
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area? My favorite thing to do in the Bay Area is to walk along Ocean Beach on a full moon night.
 
What are you currently reading / watching / listening to? I’m reading the book Salt Houses by Hala Alyan, a Palestinian author who reflects on the topics of gender, home and displacement. Also Battleborn by Claire Faye Watkins, a beautiful exposition of short stories about the American West. I listen to the Daily podcast from the New York Times every day.

Meet the interns: Hey, Teresa!

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WEA loves working with interns, and Teresa is one of them! Teresa, a smart, driven, and passionate woman ready to tackle some of the issues WEA cares about the most worked as our Programs + Operations intern. Thanks to Teresa’s support WEA has done even more work to empower women entrepreneurs and treat the environment with the love it needs. We are lucky to work with so many talented interns like Teresa.

Read more about her interests and amazing work below!

Name: Teresa Yu

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why? 
My practical superpower would be to know all the languages of the world and be a master of communication! This wouldn’t be limited to spoken languages either – I’d love to know all forms of language. My functional/silly superpower would be telekinesis because I would just be able to move things with my mind!

Why did you want to intern with WEA?
Amidst the most well-traveled year of my life so far, as intellectually fulfilling and exciting as it was, I yearned for an opportunity to bridge what I’d learned from my travels to my life in Berkeley, whilst still in school. I wanted to work in a place that would ground me once I came back to Berkeley. I believe that the solutions concerning environmental sustainability and poverty are already imbedded within the communities themselves, particularly within the women who lead the communities. WEA’s interdisciplinary understanding of the feminization of poverty and approach to engaging women entrepreneurs who are already working at the grassroots level embodied my desire to uplift women, while simultaneously work towards an environmentally just future.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
Besides my mom and all other moms in the world, a woman who inspires me is Michelle Obama. She remained true to her self after graduating from Princeton and Harvard and returned to her native Chicago, held several public sector positions that focused on the betterment of her community, and held the First Lady position with such grace and sophistication.

Why women and why the environment? 
As Katsi Cook once said, “Women are the first environment”. I remember as a child first learning that every living person once came from a woman, and I was absolutely blown away at the sheer strength and power that women held. A feminist to my core, learning the many ways in which women are disproportionately affected by poverty and climate change because of unequal access to opportunities and choices shaped my commitment to working at the intersection of the environment and marginalized communities. Women are inextricably linked to the environment, and it is impossible to separate the two when working towards environmental and social justice.

What does your life outside WEA look like? 
I’m currently in my last year of undergrad at UC Berkeley, studying Environmental Economics and Policy with minors in Global Poverty and Practice and Public Policy. When I’m not studying in Berkeley, I’m active in the Student Environmental Resource Center and other environmental initiatives on campus. I also love food, and love experimenting different ways it can be used as a platform for social activism.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
The Bay Area has the best weather in the world so I try to enjoy time outside as much as possible. I started rock climbing a few months ago and that’s been mentally and physically invigorating!

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 
I’m currently reading Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh, a delightful read about food and its intersection with politics, art, sexuality, gender, culture, and even class. I’m currently watching Dear White People, a hilarious and powerful show about identity politics in a predominantly white fictional Ivy League school and Annihilation, a sci-fi film about a super bad-ass team of women that embark on a super dark mission! I’m currently listening to (and loving) The Internet.

Meet the interns: Hi, Anna!

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We’re back with another outstanding intern to introduce you to, Anna! Anna joined WEA as our Communications + Outreach intern and we’re so lucky to have worked with interns, like Anna who are so passionate about empowering other women as well as creating a more sustainable environmental future. This social media savvy woman helped us keep our community up to date and informed on all our work while effectively communicating the passion we all feel for women and the environment. Thanks, Anna!

Read more about the amazing Anna below and what she’s up to!

Name: Anna Pedersen
Hometown: San Luis Obispo, CA
If you had a superpower, it would be (and why):
It would definitely have to be breathing underwater. If would open the door to exploring a whole new realm without depending on any equipment and I could spend hours underwater doing research, photography, or just hanging with the sea creatures.

Why did you want to intern with WEA?

Initially I was searching for an organization to work with alongside my minor, Global Poverty and Practice, and when I came across WEA it seemed too perfect a fit. I love that WEAs work is centered around both women and environmental concerns and the unique approach that WEA has to this area really aligned with my perspectives on development work. There’s no stepping in to ‘help’ women, its working as a support to enable women to feel empowered and able to make the changes they want to see, which is really beautiful.  

 

Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I am always inspired by Melati and Isabel Wijsen who are two sisters from Bali that started their own non-profit against plastic pollution and worked/protested/fought to ban plastic bags in Bali. They started their organization when they were 10 and 12 because they saw an issue and wanted to address it. They did everything in their power to make the changes they were so passionate about, from beach cleanups-to a hunger strike. Eventually, their voices were recognized by the Governor of Bali, as well as other countries and now they are spreading their voices globally to ban plastic bags. Their story always inspires me, their passion, their dedication, their bravery and the way they are making things happen!
Why women and why the environment?
Because women are amazing! And the environment needs a lot of love right now. The way in which women are marginalized in so many different ways around the world is something that needs to be the center of focus and change if we want to create a healthy, sustainable and equitable planet for life to thrive on. The way things have been going for the last bit of time have taken us in a direction that won’t last long unless we create a paradigm shift and I believe women and the environment both need to be at the center of that shift in moving forward.
 

What does your life outside WEA look like?

I’m currently on a boat out in the Pacific right now, working as a Marine Naturalist for a children’s conservation program on board, so its life at sea for a little while. While I was with WEA though, I was studying Conservation and Environmental Biology at UC Berkeley, with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. I was wrapping up my last year and spending a lot of time camping, going on adventures to the ocean in Santa Cruz or Marin, and going to different events around the Bay Area.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?

Drive up Panoramic way and just sit and watch the whole Bay Area. It puts so much of what’s happening in this space into perspective and helps me reset. It’s also such a magical view up there. 

 

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?

I don’t watch too much TV and haven’t had a lot of time to read (sadly) but I’ve been listening to a lot of Parov Stelar, Glass Animals and Flume lately. And when I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ve been throwing it back to Jack Johnson and Pepper.