As a team and community, we feel an urgency now more than ever before to broaden our circles and bring people together. Introducing World WEAvers Salons — small, informal gatherings of friends, neighbors and community members — to provide a space for us all to learn about important issues affecting our Earth and frontline communities, as well as generate innovative solutions to meet these challenges with hope and agility. We invite you to reach out if you are interested in attending, hosting, or have an idea for a speaker/topic for an upcoming salon.
In a moment of global environmental crisis, Indonesia is ground zero. Widespread deforestation and related wildfires make it the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and endanger the survival of indigenous and endemic species, including the Sumatran orangutan. Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and toxic smog are causing mass migration, transforming entire communities into climate refugees. Rivers and lakes are being consumed by plastic waste, coral bleaching is destroying ocean habitats, and rising seas are swallowing islands.
In response to the onslaught of environmental threats and crises facing local communities, and by extension the world, it is the women of Indonesia who are rising to meet these challenges.
Earlier this month, WEA had the honor of hosting Emmanuela Shinta, a Dayak leader, environmentalist and filmmaker from Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), for an intimate gathering to share how her community and environment continues to be affected by the world’s palm oil consumption.
WEA first met Shinta during Indonesia’s great Palm Oil Haze of 2015. At that time, Shinta was deeply immersed in mentoring young women activists who were passionately raising awareness about their country’s mass deforestation and burning of peat-rich rainforests to make room for mono crops of oil palm trees. This palm oil was to be used across the world in processed foods, beauty products and biofuels. In 2016, Shinta started the YOUTH ACT CAMPAIGN, a youth movement to end the forest fires and haze that have been happening for 20 years in Kalimantan.
Shinta is the founder of Ranu Welum Foundation, which works on issues of social culture, humanity, and environment in Kalimantan. She is at the forefront of taking an active and peaceful role in preserving the heritage, humanity, and environment of her community.
Learn more. Take action.
Here are several resources for diving deeper into the impacts of palm oil on Kalimantan, and taking action in our own lives to shift our consumption habits away from this devastating industry.
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.
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.”