Project Lead: Together for H2OPE
Bondita Acharya has worked with WEA since 2011 as a partner in the South Asia Small Grants Initiative and for the last 2 years as the regional coordinator for the Together for H2OPE Initiative in partnership with Numi Foundation. Bondita 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.
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.
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. Olanike’s work has created refuge for Nigerian women, as well as an opportunity for women leaders to create a livelihood and secure a future for their children and the earth.
Kahea is a creative communications and operations specialist with a passion for Indigenous peoples rights and sustainability. She has lived and traveled around the world, including studying the shifting terrain of ethno-political conflict and human rights in Northern Ireland, as well as the construction of culture and identity in colonial spaces in Aotearoa. Much of her career has been focused on preserving Indigenous rights to self-determination, sovereignty, land, water and sacred spaces. In 2008, her research on the socio-economic status of Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders was included in the Mieklejohn Civil Liberties Institute shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. From 2008-2009, she served as a law clerk with Alexander, Berkey, Williams and Weathers, where she worked on cases to ensure tribal rights under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Indian Child Welfare Act, various environmental regulations, and the Klamath River settlement.
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 the North America Program’s central initiative, the Advocacy Network. In 2013, she shifted her focus full-time to leading WEA’s communications and operations. Kahea was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and now lives with her husband and toddler in the Bay Area. She’s had her work published in various academic and legal journals, has served as a writing/editing consultant for purpose-driven organizations and companies, and is a certified life coach.
Head of Curriculum
Sarita is an education for sustainability specialist who is passionate about using a human design, systems-thinking approach to create extraordinary learning experiences aimed at regenerating our broken systems. She joined WEA after nearly 7 years of inspiring work with Green School, Bali and has lived and worked as a educator and musician in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Croatia, and Indonesia. Sarita is happy to be back in the Bay Area where, besides joining the WEA team to co-create holistic trainings for women environmental leaders and manage the World WEAver community, she is a diversity and inclusion facilitator with the ADL, a garden educator with West County Digs, and is on the education advisory board for the Urban REAL School. She is a musician, playwright, theater director and gardener, the mother of two young women, and is currently completing her Masters in Education for Sustainability at Antioch University, studied cultural anthropology at Northern Arizona University and received her Bachelors Ed from Goddard College.
Project Lead: Seeds of Resilience
Sunita Rao is an ecologist by training and lives in the Malnad region of Karnataka, India. Sunita has worked with WEA since 2011, when her organization, Vanastree became a partner for WEA’s South Asia Small Grants Initiative. Sunita then became the Project Lead on the multi-year Seeds of Resilience Project. 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.
Project Lead: Climate Resiliency in Kenya
Rose began working with WEA in 2011 when she was selected as a Fellow for the Global Women’s Water Initiative in East Africa. Rose participated in a rigorous training program which included leadership development, WASH education, water testing, action planning and hands-on construction of toilets, rainwater harvesting systems, and water treatments. Rose worked with grassroots women’s teams to provide support in planning, development and implementation of technologies and water projects in their communities in Kenya and Tanzania supporting them to build technologies, plan holistic strategies, and design sustainable projects. Rose then launched her own organization called Women in Water and Natural Resources Conservation which improves the lives of women, girls, and other vulnerable children in East Africa through access to education, health service, and capacity building for economic empowerment. Rose has deep experience in community development, social entrepreneurship and transformational leadership for women’s empowerment. She holds a Diploma in Analytical Chemistry, a Bachelor’s degree in Biological sciences, and is currently pursuing Master of Science in Development Studies at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology in Kenya. Rose is a Trainer, A certified Enterprise Development Agent by UNDP Kenya, a WASH advocate, a climate protection champion and an environmental activist.
Programs + Operations Intern
Sara joins WEA for the summer as a Programs and Operations Intern, she grew up out in West Marin attending the tiny Nicasio School where they taught students from an early age about the detrimental effects humans have on a variety of different ecosystems, especially out in West Marin where there are lots of low lying marshlands and streams that are impacted by Big Ag and Dairy Farms. In college she studied International Relations and Gender and Queer Studies, taking the humanitarian approach to various topics of study, particularly when analyzing political theory and activism organizing. She moved back to the Bay Area in June, leaving behind Tacoma, Washington, but she hopes that after her time with WEA she can go on to apply the skills she’s learning here to other grassroots movements on the West Coast.
Programs + Operations Intern
Madison is a senior at the University of San Francisco, majoring in International Studies with a focus on Environmental Advocacy in Latin America. Growing up just outside of Seattle, Washington, she developed a passion for the environment at a very early age, and has always enjoyed exploring and adventuring in the outdoors. Her past three years in San Francisco have been focused both on community, through working with Young Life, a high school outreach organization in the city, and the environment, as she’s been learning from leading advocates about how to best engage community in efforts to achieve environmental justice. She also loves to travel, and spent half of last year traveling around Australia researching and studying environmental sustainability through the lens of community activism. She joined to WEA team to expand her knowledge of international advocacy and change-making, and is excited to apply what she’s learned to future advocacy endeavors.
Programs + Director Relations Intern
Lia is an undergraduate student at Stanford studying public policy and film and media. She is passionate about educational equity, and strongly believes in the power of education for effective and sustainable change. She loves to read historical fiction and discover hidden stories, and hopes to produce and direct a historical fiction film of her own one day. She looks forward to taking everything she learns from WEA back to Stanford to share with the youth she teaches and tutors.
Programs + Operations Intern
Carmen is an undergrad at UC San Diego studying environmental policy. She first developed her love for the environment by volunteering for a wildlife rehabilitation center throughout high school and later became the Carbon Neutrality Initiative Student Engagement Fellow at UC San Diego. She now works as a Social Justice Peer Educator for the Women’s Center on campus and hopes to learn more about, as well as teach others, the connection between women and the environment, and other social issues. She is also passionate about environmental justice among communities of color and believes that everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment.
Social Media + Communications Intern
Amanda is a junior at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in English Literature. A Bay Area/Virginia hybrid, Amanda has advocated for gender equality and women’s right to bodily autonomy since her youth, and founded the nation’s first high school chapter of Planned Parenthood Generation Action. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Free Peach, UC Berkeley’s independent satire publication, and addresses the issues plaguing college culture through humor. Amanda is passionate about using modern technology as a platform to foment change. After college, she intends to work in cause-marketing or comedy (and hopefully both!). In her free time, Amanda enjoys illustrating, reading Latin American literature, and watching bad 80s sitcoms.
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.