Meet the Interns: Hi, Ashley!

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“Women are the backbones of their communities, and yet they face marginalization on multiple fronts. If we are able to cultivate spaces where women’s rights and needs are prioritized rather than treated as an afterthought, entire communities will benefit.” – Ashley Vu, WEA Intern

To say we are incredibly fortunate and honored to be able to work with young women leaders like Ashley is an understatement. Ashley has been supporting the development of our recently launched grassroots accelerators, our donor stewardship program, and our organizational outreach with such care, dedication and attention to detail. Read on to get to her know more!

Name: Ashley Vu
Hometown: Santa Ana, CA

If you had a superpower, what would it would be (and why):
I would want to be able to teleport. I’ve always wanted to travel the world and being able to teleport would mean that I can do just that without breaking the bank (at least in terms of transportation).

Why did you want to intern with WEA?
I was taking an Environmental Health and Development class this past summer and my professor had mentioned a local non-profit organization called WEA, who was not only helping the environment but also doing so through uplifting and working directly with women leaders in the communities they were hoping to impact. I found WEA’s mission statement incredibly inspiring and began to follow them since.

Tell us about a woman who inspires you.
I would have to say my grandma. She practically raised me and as I’ve gotten older I realize how much she’s done for my family. She emigrated from Viet Nam in hopes of providing a better life for her seven children, raised those seven children as a single mother in a foreign country, and reminds all of her grandchildren to keep in touch with our Vietnamese culture. Even at 79 years old, she holds a light within her that shows no signs of dulling anytime soon. She is truly one of the most resilient and independent women I know and I hope to be at least half of the woman she is.

Why women and why the environment?
Women are the backbones of their communities, and yet they face marginalization on multiple fronts. If we are able to cultivate spaces where women’s rights and needs are prioritized rather than treated as an afterthought, entire communities will benefit.

The environment, as well, has been treated as an afterthought by many people, but the ways that it affects us are plentiful. Specifically, marginalized communities are the most impacted when they are the ones who are often the least responsible for the state of our planet. It’s about time we start treating climate change and environmental issues as urgent problems that need prompt addressing.

What does your life outside WEA look like?
I’m currently a senior at UC Berkeley studying Applied Mathematics, so this past semester (outside of WEA) has consisted of me trying to study my best while also trying to take in as much of Berkeley/the Bay Area as I can. I’m usually either studying, hanging out with friends, going thrift shopping, or trying new food places. My friends and I have a “bucket list” of restaurants and hiking spots we’ve been wanting to visit before we all graduate.

What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bay Area?
I love the food scene in the Bay Area, specifically Berkeley; there’s so many different cuisines but also small Mom-and-Pop shops, which I love. My hometown is pretty diverse in food options, but oversaturated with a lot of food chain restaurants. Here, I’m able to get small glimpses of other cultures through their food and I’m also able to support small businesses whose establishments hold so much history and sentiment for the communities they reside in.

What are you currently reading / watching / listening to?
I’m currently reading Jung’s Map of the Soul by Murray Stein and Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. As for what I’m listening to, I’m always listening to the K-Pop group BTS (a lot of people don’t realize how thoughtful their lyrics are!) and have also been listening to a lot of H.E.R.

Meet our newest board member, Charity Tooze

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WEA’s newest Leadership Board member, Charity Tooze, is a longtime champion of women’s rights, and currently serves as Director of Gender, Partnerships, and Communications with Equal Access International. She’s a creative social impact leader with a fierce commitment to uplifting girl and women-led organizations, and we are honored to have her experience and voice on our board.

Meet Binta: A Clean Cookstove Leader, Advocate, and Entrepreneur

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Binta Yahaya is a community mobilizer and environmental advocate from Lere, a rural town in Kaduna State, Nigeria. In her town, most women and girls cook over open fires, and many suffer chronic respiratory infections and other health problems from the toxic smoke. Few are aware that cooking with an open fire is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour in one’s kitchen, or that firewood smoke is the 3rd largest killer of women and children in Nigeria. Even Binta didn’t know what to do about the dangerous accumulation of dirty soot on her own traditional cookstove.

Then she participated in the 9-month 2017-2018 WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training and learned of powerful alternatives. Within 1 week of entrepreneurship, leadership, and technical training, Binta sold 70 clean cookstoves to women in her village. She quickly watched this simple solution reduce sickness, medical bills, and daily fuel costs for these families.

Today, Binta is a clean cookstove entrepreneur, and as a trusted member of her community, people listen. She also launched a second business producing her own clean cookstove model and selling cooking fuel made from agricultural waste instead of charcoal. Every day she improves the lives of people (1,000 already have access to clean energy and improved health because of her), mentors more women entrepreneurs, and plays a part in Nigeria’s clean energy future. On the last day of the training she said, “You have already changed my life…if I had to pay for what I learned from you, I don’t think I could afford it. I have no words but to say thank you.”

Together, Binta and her cohort of clean cookstoves participants have reached over 13,000 people with clean cookstoves. According to Project Drawdown, if adoption grows to 16% by 2050, reductions in emissions will amount to 15.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with health benefits reaching millions of households.

WEA Voice: Olanike Olugboji

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Olanike Olugboji — WEA partner and founder of Nigerian NGO WISE — was recently recognized with the Sustainability, Environment and Advocacy Award for demonstrating exceptional proficiency in Eco-Business Advocacy.

Olanike is a WEA founding mother who participated in our first Women and Water Training in 2008 and has now trained over 3,000 women in clean energy, safe water technologies, and entrepreneurship. WEA and WISE recently partnered together again on the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training.


WEA Voice: Emmanuela Shinta

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In a moment of global environmental crisis, Indonesia is ground zero. In response, it is the women of Indonesia who are rising to meet these challenges — women like Emmanuela Shinta, Dayak leader, environmentalist and filmmaker from Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). WEA recently hosted Shinta in California, where she shared how her community and environment are profoundly impacted by the world’s palm oil consumption.

Stay tuned:  WEA’s headed to Indonesia in 2019 to partner with Shinta and others to uplift critical solutions