Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 ( News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 ( News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


Women “Make Demands That Bite”

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women's Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women’s Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 13, 2018 ( News) – “Women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and they are refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion and discrimination across all walks of life,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the opening session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women meeting at UN headquarters on Monday.

Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa is currently serving as executive director of the agency UN Women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

She highlighted the importance of this year’s focus on rural women.

“It speaks to our commitment to fight some of the biggest challenges of our time: poverty, inequality, intersectionality and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live, so that we leave no one behind,” she said.

Calling it “a tipping point moment,” Mlambo-Ngcuka urged the Commission to seize the opportunity to secure and accelerate progress, build consensus and share best practices to serve rural women, “the poorest of the poor.”

“It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress” on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], she said. An unprecedented hunger for change in women’s lives is being seen around the world, as well as a growing recognition that when women banded together, “they can make demands that bite.”

Referring to himself as a “proud feminist,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “Changing the unequal power dynamics that underpin discrimination and violence is not only the greatest human rights challenge of our time, it is also in everyone’s interests.”

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he continued. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality.”

At the Commission meeting today, the European Union unveiled a new, global, multi-year project called the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, aimed at eliminating all violence against women and girls.

The Spotlight initiative is a “robust, comprehensive and targeted approach” that builds on the global #Metoo and #TimesUp initiatives, which “have certainly helped raising awareness about inequalities and discrimination that women face in the workplace, from pay gaps, under-representation to inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment,” said Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

The EU will make an initial investment in the order of €500 million (US$620 million). Other donors and partners will be invited to join the Initiative to broaden its reach and scope.

The money will be managed by a UN multi-stakeholder trust fund, with the support of three core agencies: the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, and UN Women, and overseen by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.

This year’s attention to women-centered concerns began on International Women’s Day, March 8, with actors Reese Witherspoon and Dania Guria spotlighting sexual abuse and the need for women’s empowerment.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said the American Oscar-winning actor and producer.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said Witherspoon on March 8 at UN headquarters. “We will defend women next to us.”

American-Zimbabwean actor and playwright Danai Gurira, who in addition to portraying Michonne in the TV series “The Walking Dead” and Okoye in the movie “Black Panther,” is an education and women’s rights activist, testified about her own experience as a woman in her profession.

“I drew strength [for my characters] from women from my own life in Zimbabwe,” she said.

“The potential of girls and women must not be squandered,” said Gurira, thanking those who stand up for women’s rights and urging everyone to join them.

Many thousands of women joined in marches around the world on International Women’s Day

Under the slogan "Different Causes, Shared Anger," women and men gathered for a march to support women's rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

Under the slogan “Different Causes, Shared Anger,” women and men gathered for a march to support women’s rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

International Women’s Day was marked in Spain with an unprecedented strike organized by women workers targeting gender inequality and sexual discrimination. The 24 hour strike was joined by 5.3 million women leading events and street protests across 200 Spanish locations; some of the top women politicians joined it. All shouted “If we stop, the world stops.”

According to Eurostat, in Spain, women are paid 13 percent less than men in the public sector and 19 percent less in the private sector.

In Saudi Arabia, women exercised a new freedom as restrictions were relaxed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They went jogging.

In Mosul, Iraq, women ran saying they wanted to win back their rights following the brutal occupation by ISIS which was ended in July.

In Rome, Italy, a group of prominent Catholic women met to demand a greater say in Church governance. But the list of speakers angered the Church and Pope Francis has declined to attend or celebrate Mass. A former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the Catholic Church as an “empire of misogyny.”

Activists in China were angered by the attitude of retailers who named the day “Queens’ Day” or “Goddesses’ Day” and offered women customers discounts on goods such as cosmetics.

Female journalists in Ukraine started a Facebook drive called “I am not your darling” in response to President Petro Poroshenko’s use of the term in replying to a woman reporter.

In France, the daily paper Liberation raised its price on Thursday, but only for men, to highlight the gender pay gap. President Emmanuel Macron also pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for doing the same work.

But the spotlight this year is really on rural women. They make up more than one-fourth of the world population and the majority of the 43 percent of women in the global agricultural work force.

They till the lands and plant seeds to ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women on almost every measure of development.

For instance, fewer than 20 percent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23 percent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 percent.

Rural women lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Yet, says the United Nations, rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.

Here are some key targets of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda that affect women and girls:

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Featured image: In celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018, the New York Stock Exchange and 62 other stock exchanges around the world hosted a bell ringing ceremony to raise awareness of the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. (Photo courtesy UN Women)


Increasing Resilience, Improving Quality of Life


How an NGO, BARKA, increases resilience, improves quality of life, and empowers people in Burkina Faso. NGOs do make a difference.

Burkina Faso, West Africa, February 7, 2018 – Maximpact Training Network would like to present one of its trainees in Grant Proposal Writing, and show how BARKA Foundation is improving people’s and communities’ lives.

BARKA is affiliated with the United Nations and has Special Consultative Status with the UN’s Economic and Social Affairs Division (ECOSOC). It is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization established in 2006 in the United States. In 2009, they registered as a local country-based organization in Burkina Faso.

BARKA’s international development work is focused solely in Burkina Faso, West Africa. BARKA Foundation currently works with 9 village communities in the Eastern Region of Burkina Faso. Our approach is community-led and long-term. We continue to walk along side villagers long after a project is completed, which often leads to other much needed services in related areas. For example, in 2016, BARKA began developing a sustainable agriculture project with two villages where it had previously drilled a well. The water from those wells will be used to irrigate the new gardens during the long dry season and combat both malnutrition and the devastating effects of climate change.

The NGO has recently completed its largest project to date to improve access to water in 4 villages, introduce and improve sanitations in 4 rural primary schools and raise awareness of basic hygiene principals at the community level in 5 villages.

Burkina Faso

Barka’s areas of focus are:

  • Water: providing access to clean water, improving sanitation and hygiene education for schools and communities
  • Women: empowering women and girls with various projects and  programs
  • Agroecology: helping local farmers combat climate change through agroecology and sustainable agriculture
  • Reciprocity: BARKA serves as a bridge between individuals, schools and communities of Burkina Faso and the United States to facilitate greater understanding, cultural exchange and the co-creation of a culture of peace.

Barka Impact

For more information on BARKA Foundation visit to make a tax-deductible donation

Donate in-kind services: technology, accounting services, web services, design, marketing.

Featured image: ‘A girl carries water home on a bike’ image from BARKA foundation website – Monitoring and Evaluation. 


“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.

Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

Arab Oil & Gas Industry Opens to Women

Female employees at the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, 2017. (Photo courtesy GPIC) posted for media use

Female employees at the Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, 2017. (Photo courtesy GPIC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BAHRAIN, November 14, 2017 ( News) – Dr. Meena Marafi holds one of the few senior jobs occupied by women in the Arab oil and gas industry, but her talent is recognized across the sector.

As executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research Dr. Marafi was honored with the 2017 “Woman of Achievement” award at the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS) gala ceremony on October 9 at The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel in Manama, Bahrain..

With a PhD in chemical engineering from Aston University England, she has authored more than 100 publications, including two books, and has been awarded two U.S. patents.

Dr. Meena Marafi, executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, earned the 2017 "Woman of Achievement" award from the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS).

Dr. Meena Marafi, executive director of the Petroleum Research Center at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, earned the 2017 “Woman of Achievement” award from the Leadership Excellence for Women Awards and Symposium (LEWAS).

Dr. Marafi has 13 years of managerial experience as well as 26 years of research experience in petroleum refining processes, catalyst development, deactivation and its waste management.

She was a member of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation/OPEC Research and Development committee for Clean Fuel Technologies from 2004 to 2012. Since 2015, she has been a member of the Advisory R&D board for the state-owned Kuwait National Petroleum Company, the national oil refining company of Kuwait.

And, Dr. Marafi also was selected as the first woman chairperson from Kuwait at the prestigious 17th World Petroleum Congress this year.

Other talented women, too, were recognized with LEWAS awards.

Fatima Sharif works as warehouse supervisor with Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (GPIC), the only petrochemical producing company headquartered in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Sharif is winner of the LEWAS “Leading with Excellence” award. This award honors a professional woman with a degree and five to 15 years of experience in science and engineering, who demonstrates leadership skills that have an impact on the entire company on a corporate level.

“Rising Star” award winner Esra Alkhadhar Alhosani is an instrumentation and control engineer with the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operation.

Following the example of these three exceptional women and the many other honorees, “empower, engage, and elevate” were the three words on the minds of those who attended the LEWAS event October 9-12.

The three-day event, packed with workshops, speakers, panel discussions, and awards, was intended to help women in the oil and gas industry throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six Middle Eastern countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

LEWAS, was created when a group of women decided there needed to be a forum in the Gulf Cooperation Council that provides a place to celebrate women’s achievements, learn from well-respected women, network and improve upon knowledge. LEWAS is an industry initiative of the 4th Middle East Process Engineering Conference.

The event was held under the patronage of Baharain Oil Minister Shaikh Mohamed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, and it was supported with speakers from the World Petroleum Congress, Boston Consulting Group, Petroleum Institute, and Tata Consultancy Services among others.

For the first time, the gender diversity within the Arab oil industry is receiving researchers’ attention.

At the 22nd World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul in July, the World Petroleum Council and the Boston Consulting Group published the results of their first-of-its-kind study on the status, challenges and opportunies of gender diversity in the oil and gas industry.

Intended to provide a comprehensive baseline on gender balance across the oil and gas industry, the report’s findings are based on detailed personal interviews with more than 60 female and male senior industry executives worldwide, and a survey of about 2,000 male and female industry professionals from a wide range of companies and countries.

Data was provided confidentially to the report’s authors by all major international oil companies and several national oil companies. The authors say they received information from 38 companies with collective revenues of $1.9 trillion and employees representing between 25 percent and 30 percent of the industry’s global workforce.

The authors plan to update this benchmark report every three years in conjunction with the triennial World Petroleum Congress.

One reason why women are not advancing as quickly as some would like is that there is “a shortage of women in STEM education programs, which provide the necessary qualifications for a career in the technical areas of the industry.”

And then, the report states, ” the industry has a poor reputation as a place for women to establish a career; negative views about the industry are common.

Across the Arab oil and gas industry, the report finds that just one percent of all CEO are females.

The report shows that “although men and women start out on an equal footing, women rarely reach the top of the organization. Men in senior positions say that’s due to a lack of qualified female candidates for top positions.

The authors write, “This assessment is probably accurate: among women who have spent many years in the industry and might otherwise be considered suitable candidates for promotion to senior management, many have failed to accumulate the critical experiences that their male colleagues have. Thus, even among women who are still at the comapny after 15 or 20 years, the odds of landing a senior executive job are small: women hold less than 20 percent of these positions.”

“There are wide gaps in perception between men and women regarding the gender-related challenges the women face,” the report states.

For example, write the authors, “men believe that women are generally less flexible than men and therefore less suited to certain roles … But our research shows that women are in fact just as flexible as men, and sometimes even more so.”

Nevertheless, men in the Arab oil and gas industry business appear to fail to understand how tough it is for women to rise in this industry.

The report shows that 57 percent of women said that female emplyees receive less support for advancement into senior positions than male employees; only 24 percent of men agreed.

Then, 56 percent of women surveyed said women are overlooked for senior positions in the oil and gas industry; only 23 percent of men agreed.

The World Petroleum Council and Boston Consulting Group recommend that oil and gas companies work to remove structural barriers to female advancement and develop more high profile female role models to inspire young women and girls.

They recommend that STEM education be promoted among girls and young women, and scholarships and internships be offered to talented candidates.

One of the very few male oil and gas executives to receive a LEWAS award at the October event, Ali A. Al-Meshari, manager of Saudi Aramco’s Exploration and Petroleum Engineering Center – Advanced Research Center (EXPEC ARC), supports that recommendation.

During a panel titled “Narrowing the Gender Gap and Strengthening the Female Pipeline in the Oil and Gas Industry,”

Al-Meshari expressed his support for encouraging the STEM subjects for girls, along with strengthening the female pipeline within GCC companies.

Al-Meshari was presented with the 2017 LEWAS “Corporate Champion” award.

The LEWAS event was exciting for Dalia Abushulaih, who is with Saudi Aramco’s Professional Development Program.

“The workshop really focused on setting goals and creating the first step you need to achieve them,” said Abushulaih. “My personal experience with this workshop was truly remarkable.

“The greatest moment was when I presented to the whole workshop my goal. I hope to find an opportunity in the future, where I am connected to businesses, government, and society to be able to create positive progress that can be heard, learned, and applied in our great Kingdom,” said Abushulaih. “Having the amazing people I was surrounded by to support a dream of mine truly did illuminate my path.”


Women Worldwide Reap Crowdfunding Benefits


Kiva fellows participate in a a full-time, 6-month paid program. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and have gone on to work all over the world at companies and organizations, such as Apple, Grameen America, Save the Children,, Box and USAID. This is the current cohort of Kiva fellows. (Photo courtesy Kiva) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, June 20, 2017 ( News) – Crowdfunding has been growing exponentially, with over $2 billion raised in the United States in 2015 alone. Now, women-led crowdfunding projects are enjoying success through this new path that allows them to realize their dreams.

“In connecting creators and entrepreneurs directly with customers and funders, it transforms the opaque and oligarchical market for early-stage fundraising into a more democratic, open one,” wrote Ethan Mollick in the “Harvard Business Review” last year.

Instead of relying on venture capitalists and marketers to project potential demand for new innovations, creators can directly reach out to customers and communities to refine ideas and gauge interest.

Crowdfunding is reshaping which ideas come to market by matching innovators with those who need innovation, and often it is women who need innovation and funding the most.

Bank of America and Kiva, a crowdfunding platform for social good based in San Francisco, have joined forces to support women’s entrepreneurship through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund.

Launched in 2016, The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund matches, dollar-for-dollar, what Kiva’s citizen lenders provide to women entrepreneurs on

Bank of America’s commitment of $250,000 enabled the Fund to cross the US$1 million dollar milestone and will help Kiva reach a total of US$1 billion in loans crowdfunded since the site was founded in 2005.

“Capital is a vital building block for women entrepreneurs around the world,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman at Bank of America. “We’re honored to be a founding partner of the Kiva Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund as one example of how we deploy our capital to fuel women’s economic growth and build thriving communities.”

Individuals can support women’s entrepreneurship by visiting and choosing who they want to receive $25 or more. They can choose to support a woman in El Salvador planning to grow her agriculture business by hiring more employees. Individual loans of $25 or more are collected until a woman’s full loan request is crowdfunded.

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund supports women entrepreneurs like Lindiwe, a 22-year-old woman living in rural Zimbabwe. Lindiwe received entrepreneurial training from Camfed and a Kiva loan crowdfunded by 11 citizen lenders. Lindiwe now operates three businesses in her village - a poultry business, a small shop and a line of juices that she sells to local laborers.

The loan helped her scale her juice business from 20 liters per week in sales to 200 liters. Her goal is to hire more employees and to be a role model to show girls what is possible when they persevere in education and work hard.

“I want to go far! I want to create as many employees as I can, especially girls,” said Lindiwe. “Helping girls to stay in school, helping them to achieve what they want in life, that is my favorite part.”

“These citizen lenders joined Kiva with the understanding that sometimes just a little bit of capital can be the bridge between talent and opportunity,” said Premal Shah, Kiva’s president and co-founder. “And when women entrepreneurs cross that bridge, they bring their families, communities and all of us with them.”

On June 13, funds that citizen lenders provided to women on were matched dollar-for-dollar by Bank of America, up to $250,000.

Since Kiva was founded in 2005, 2.6 million entrepreneurs from 83 countries have received nearly US$1 billion in loans, each crowdfunded in $25 increments on by 1.6 million citizen lenders.

Kiva says on its website, “Women reinvest 80 percent of their income in the wellbeing and education of their families With the same amount of land, women can increase crop yields by 20 percent, reducing world hunger for 150 million people Women business owners set an example for the next generation of students and leaders.”

A study from the University of Pennsylvania released in July 2016 found that on the popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, where the focus is on creativity and the arts, 41 percent of 61,654 campaigns that raised over $1,000 were created by women.

And now there’s a women-only crowdfunding platform. In late 2016, Karen Cahn launched iFundWomen, a crowdfunding venture for campaigns by female entrepreneurs. “There is such a massive funding gap for women in venture,” said Cahn. “It’s a little-known fact that women only get about 2 to 6 percent of venture dollars. We knew we had to do something about that.”

The idea for iFundWomen got its start last summer when Cahn and three other women: Sarah Sommers, Kate Anderson, and Shilpa Raut, decided to launch a digital video series called “You’re Not Crazy” and raise the money for it with crowdfunding.They funded their first campaign in three months.

Current crowdfunding requests at iFundWomen includes Rejuve Corp’s Plug-in-Pods, a business that repurposes shipping containers as chic affordable housing and entrepreneurial spaces. It’s seeking $20,000.

“We’re bridging manufacturing and industrial engineering with landscape architecture,” says Wanona Satcher, ReJuve Founder and CEO.

The potential global impact for rapidly built affordable living and work spaces is huge, especially as our urban centers grow, Satcher explains. “We intend to disrupt the $400 billion construction industry by the materials we use, how we recycle them and how we deliver.”

Also on iFundWomen, the Music City Icons Semi-Pro Women’s Basketball Team is seeking $10,000 to provide an opportunity for women to continue to play basketball and be leaders in the Nashville, Tennessee business community. “Our program designed around opportunity and development,” says Music City Icons owner Renee Bobb.

A totally different crowdfunding request from the other side of the world on iFundWomen is State of Benefit, which is seeking $7,500. This early stage mother-daughter ecomm startup ethically sources products made by women in Pakistan to ensure women artisans are getting living wages, working in safe environments, while bringing beautifully made jewelry, garments, and housewares into the U.S. market.

Launched in 2010, the San Diego-based GoFundMe is the world’s largest social fundraising platform, with over $3 billion raised so far from a community of more than 40 million donors worldwide.

Here, crowdfunding requests can be small in the amount of money they seek, but large in heart and in effect.

On this popular crowdfunding site, a 95-year-old grandmother, Grandma Great, is trying to raise US$1,000 to buy fabric to make the blankets she sends to mothers and babies in need in Kenya.

She has only $80 left to raise. “I took the first batch with me to Kenya in 2010 on a medical mission. We used the blankets to help rural medical clinics and community health workers with new mothers and babies,” writes Jeanette Nelson, who posted her grandmother’s appeal.

“I showed my grandma videos and pictures of the women receiving the blankets. Told her about how they were being used, and she has been diligent in her service to the mamas and babies of rural Kenya ever since,” writes Nelson. “I’m not sure if she is aware of her amazing legacy of service, but I will be forever grateful for her example.”

GoFundMe allows users to create their own website to describe what they are raising money for. Once the website is created, users can share their project with people through social network links on Facebook and Twitter and by email. People can donate to a cause through the website using a debit card or credit card and leave comments on the site in support of the project. GoFundMe generates revenue by automatically deducting a 5% fee from each donation.

To compare the Top 10 crowdfunding sites, visit:

“It’s incredible to see all the amazing ways people are using GoFundMe to make a difference in the lives of others,” says co-founder Brad Damphousse. “We feel very fortunate to have a front row seat to an ever-increasing number of uplifting, inspiring, and successful fundraising campaigns.”

Featured Image: Karen Cahn is the Founder and CEO of iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women launched in 2016 which has since raised $600,000 for 100 entrepreneurs. The mission of iFundWomen is to close the funding and confidence gap for female entrepreneurs by working with early stage companies on coaching, brand positioning, and sales strategies. (Photo courtesy Karen Cahn) Posted for media use.


Woman Honored as Pesticide Workers’ Champion


A woman sprays pesticides over a field. (Photo by International Food Policy Research Institute) Creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 4, 2017 ( News) – “The millions of rural women on the ground that are in the frontlines of the struggle against highly hazardous pesticides in their daily lives as farmers, workers, and consumers,” are the inspiration that drives Sarojeni Rengam‘s advocacy for the environment, agroecology, the elimination of pesticides, food sovereignty and social justice for women, she told a distinguished audience in Geneva on Wednesday.

Sarojeni Rengam

Sarojeni Rengam, representing Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, speaks at the 2017 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, April 27, 2017 Geneva, Switzerland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) With permission for use to Environment News Service under long-standing arrangement.

Rengam was among the 10 women and men named Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified by the Triple Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions meeting in Geneva this week.

Over 1,600 representatives from more than 180 countries as well as observers from civil society groups and the chemical and waste industries have been in Geneva since April 24 to negotiate measures for the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

A champion of women’s health and wellbeing in campaigns against toxic pesticides over the past 25 years, Rengam serves as executive director of the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP) based in Penang, Malaysia.

In her acceptance speech, Rengam expressed how much the women she works with mean in her own life. “They have inspired me with their commitment to protect their children, their families, and their communities from hazardous pesticides and to work for non-chemical alternatives,” she said.

“The reality of pesticide use in the farms and plantations is horrendous and women as sprayers often do not have the information about what they are spraying and what the impacts are. When they are poisoned, there is no medical support. Their health issues, like issues of women in general, are rarely taken seriously,” said Rengam. “This is because as women, they are still in position of subordination in their homes and communities, and at the national level.”

Glorene Amala, executive director of Tenaganita, a Malaysia-based advocacy group working with migrants, refugees and women, described Rengam as an “embodiment of women’s empowerment.”

Rengam’s work has brought about what Amala called “tremendous changes” in the lives of those who have been affected by pesticides and chemicals.

Dr. Burnad Fathima Natesan of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition said this is a proud moment for many rural women whose rights and interests Rengam has steadfastly supported in PANAP’s campaigns against harmful pesticides and for women’s rights to land and resources.

Rengam has initiated a PANAP program called Women and Agriculture to look into women’s land rights and to expose the role of corporations in promoting highly hazardous pesticides.

“The impact and awareness she has created in helping rural women understand the hazards of pesticide application in their fields and the impacts on one’s health, especially on women’s reproductive health, makes her the right person for this award,” said Natesan. “The rural women from India and from women’s movements in the region rejoice over this special moment.”

Delegates to the two week-long Triple Conferences of the Parties to the treaties known as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions now underway in Geneva aim to strengthen these agreements on the global management of hazardous chemicals and waste.

Staged under the theme “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste,” government Parties to the conventions will seek to reach consensus on a wide range of issues.


At the Triple Convention meeting, from left: Sam Adu-Kumi, Stockholm Convention COP 8 President, Franz Perrez, Rotterdam Convention COP 8 President, and Mohammed Khashashneh, Basel Convention COP 13 President, share a moment, May 1, 2017 Geneva, Switzerland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) With permission for use to Environment News Service under long-standing arrangement

For the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, this includes eight proposals for adding carbofuran, carbosulfan, trichlorfon, fenthion, paraquat, chlorinated paraffins, chrysotile asbestos and tributyltin to the RC’s “watch list,” also known as Annex III.

Forty-seven chemicals make up the Rotterdam Convention’s current list of substances deemed hazardous to human health and the environment and which are subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure. Parties also will consider ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the convention and seek to adopt compliance procedures.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.

Issues for Stockholm Convention government Parties include proposals for listing decabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-decaBDE) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins in Annex A for elimination as well as hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) in Annex C, which targets the reduction and ultimate elimination of the unintentional releases of the chemical.

Among the other issues that will get priority attention of the Stockholm Convention Parties is the development of compliance procedures and mechanisms, and the first-ever evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention, which entered into force in May 2004.

For the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the Parties will consider prevention and minimization of the generation of waste.

This is the subject of new guidance to assist Parties, and a set of practical manuals for the promotion of the environmentally sound management of wastes and revised fact sheets on specific waste streams all of which have been prepared by an expert group on environmentally sound management.

Parties also will consider establishing a new partnership focusing on a major waste stream, household waste.

The conferences will examine progress in the implementation of the Conventions among participating Parties, in particular in developing countries and countries in transition where handling hazardous chemicals throughout their lifecycles presents greater challenges.

Delegates will attempt to make progress on the sharing of information on hazardous chemicals and strive to build further international cooperation and coordination regarding their use.

More than 40 side events are scheduled during the biennial event. Topics being presented include mercury waste management, pesticide risk reduction, hazardous work in agriculture, child labor and methods to safeguard the human rights of those facing exposure.

A technology fair showcases the importance industry and private sector groups play in developing new technologies for the safe management of chemicals and promoting opportunities for developing alternatives.


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4 Tips For Finding A Career Mentor

31843658 - two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses

31843658 – two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses

By Lauren Davenport, CEO and founder of The Symphony Agency

It’s not unusual for careers to get off to wobbly starts as young people, hampered by their lack of experience and contacts, find it difficult to achieve a firm footing.

That’s one reason they should make it a goal to find mentors who could help guide them through the rough patches.

One of the biggest benefits of having a mentor is that person’s success can act as a catalyst for your belief in yourself.

It’s also a way to expand your network because a mentor can introduce you to people who could help you with your career and who you otherwise might not meet.

While mentors can be a great asset for young people in their career advancement, don’t expect the mentor to materialize out of nowhere and then do all the heavy lifting. Much of the onus is on the mentee to seek the relationship, cultivate it and make the most of it.

A few ways to do that include:

• Don’t be afraid to reach out. A simple LinkedIn search can help you find people who are currently in your dream job. Somehow, they managed to get the very thing you want. How did they pull that off? Send them a short message and tell them your aspirations. Ask if they can spare 30 minutes for you to visit their office and “pick their brains” about how they achieved success.

• Do your homework. After you went to all the trouble to set up that meeting, you don’t want to show up unprepared. Learn all you can about this potential mentor with a Google search. Write down any questions you want to ask. For the meeting, dress like you already have a job with the person’s company and be 10 minutes early.

• Join a networking organization. If reaching out to an individual isn’t in your comfort zone, seek a networking organization that focuses on career growth. Sign up for a MeetUp group taught by someone you admire. Take notes as the person speaks. After the event, you’re also going to need to muster up the courage to introduce yourself. To find a good mentor, in most cases you really are going to need to take the first step.

• Pay attention to the mentor’s advice. You may not follow through on every suggestion, but you do need to listen to what they have to say. After all, the wisdom and experience they can provide is the whole point of having a mentor. I recall early in my career joining a networking group and trying to pitch my company to the members without success. I mentioned to my mentor my inability to generate any business. She told me if I wanted to be taken seriously as a business woman I needed to change my wardrobe. I put away the summer dresses I typically wore and bought some tailored jackets and other clothes that helped present a business-professional look. Soon after, business picked up.

I still actively seek women who are in my industry and at similar career levels.

Sometimes they even work for competitors. We don’t share any company secrets, but we often are experiencing similar struggles, so we swap stories and give each other advice on how to overcome those challenges.

1ZLSB54z_400x400Lauren Davenport is chief executive officer at The Symphony Agency.  She founded the company after discovering that businesses were struggling to understand how to implement marketing and technology to reach their full potential in the digital age. Her natural entrepreneurial drive grew the organization from a boutique consulting business into a multi-million dollar agency. She is a contributor for the New York Daily News and has been featured on PBS, ABC Action News, iHeartRadio, AMEX OPEN, and more.

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Women Innovators Empower the World

Winners and presenters of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators at the awards ceremony, from left: Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness; Petra Wadström, founder and CEO of Solvatten AB; Claudia Gärtner, founder of microfluidic ChipShop; Kristina Tsvetanova, co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology; Michela Magas, founder of Stromatolite; Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Brussels, Belgium, March 8, 2017 Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 9, 2017 (Maximpact News) – Four innovative European women won rich prizes last night at a ceremony in Brussels in celebration of International Women’s Day March 8. All winners have recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their groundbreaking ideas, and all have received research and innovation funding in the past.

Funding for the EU Prize for Women Innovators comes from Horizon 2020, the largest-ever EU research and innovation program  with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investment this money is attracting.

The winners of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are:

1st Prize (€100,000): Michela Magas, of Croatian/British nationality, is founder of Stromatolite, a UK Design Innovation Lab with a studio in Sweden, building a new generation of incubation and creative technology toolkits for innovation.

The Design Innovation Lab has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. With this, Magas has established a unique innovation ecosystem, policy context and support structure for radical and disruptive innovation by a wide community of creative developers.

Her practice-based PhD research investigated music interpretation systems and led to her co-authoring Sonaris, an innovative music search technology, as well as launching the Open Product Licenses, enabling design by attribution.

Magas directed, investigating the future of music technology with seven top European research centers. She founded the global Music Tech Fest, which brings music industry, SMEs, innovators and researchers together.

Rather than taking a single product to market, her ecosystem has created a fast track to innovation, yielding multiple innovative products and services.

Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

2nd Prize (€50,000): Petra Wadström from Sweden, is founder of Solvatten, which produces a portable water purifier and water heater that are powered by solar energy. Solvatten is a durable, efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot.

Wadström is a biochemical research technician and mother of four. After years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. She says being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity.

3rd Prize (€30,000): Claudia Gärtner from Germany is founder of microfluidic ChipShop, which provides “lab-on-a-chip” systems as miniaturized solutions for better diagnostics. Microfluidics are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailor-made products and on-chip applications.

She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications.

In 2002 Dr. Gärtner was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop.

Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

A new category was introduced this year – the Rising Innovators Award – which recognizes excellence in female entrepreneurs aged 30 years or under.

The first winner of the prize worth €20,000 is Kristina Tsvetanova from Bulgaria, co-founder and chief executive of the Austrian company, BLITAB Technology, which has produced the first tablet for blind users, called BLITAB®. Tsvetanova is the co-inventor of BLITAB, the first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people.

This is the fourth edition of the contest, which began in 2011. To be eligible to compete, participants must have founded or co-founded a company before January 2015 with a turnover of at least €100,000, and either they themselves or their companies must have previously benefitted from public or private funding for research and innovation, whatever the source.

At the award ceremony, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas and Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness announced the four winners of the this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Moedas, commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “The winners of this year’s EU Prizes for Women innovators are truly inspiring. Europe needs more women innovators like them, with great ideas and the courage and determination to take risks and succeed.

The innovations that the four winners have brought from idea to market are remarkable not only from a business point of view but also because they will benefit and improve the lives of many people in Europe and beyond,” said Moedas.

McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, said, “This prize demonstrates the significant contribution of women innovators in bringing many life-changing innovations to the market. It is very fitting that on this International Women’s Day 2017 we recognize and celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit and achievements.

We do so in a very visible way to give inspiration to other women and, in particular, to young women and girls to look towards innovation and entrepreneurship,” McGuinness said.

Following an open call for submissions in autumn 2016, the winners were chosen by a high-level jury of independent experts  from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia.

Forty-seven applications were submitted from across the 28 countries currently in the European Union and additional countries associated to Horizon 2020. These associated countries include: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The other nine women chosen as finalists for the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are also interesting.

Here’s a little more information about the 12 finalists, presented in alphabetical order.

1) Gema Climent is the founder, R&D director and the only administrator of Nesplora technology and behavior. Nesplora is a company funded with the objective of analyzing human behavior using emerging technologies, making it more scientific, functional and objective. It offers a disruptive conception of evaluating human cognition and behavior using standardized and scientifically validated virtual reality scenarios.

2) Barbara Demeneix is professor of Physiology at the Natural History Museum in Paris, where she studies evolution of hormone systems. She invented and brought to market the first method for screening chemicals and environmental samples using genetically-engineered fluorescent embryos. She co-founded WatchFrog, a company marketing biological tests for screening chemicals and assessing water quality. Demeneix was recognized for her mentoring, particularly of young women scientists, with the Nature Mentorship Award, 2011. WatchFrog has participated in six actions that received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research; two are ongoing.

3) Mary Franzese cofounded Neuron Guard, a start-up that is developing a life-saving medical device for brain damage directly at the site of the event. Having both an economic and communicative soul, she dreams of being “Chief Love Officer” of a company leader in the development of standard of care technologies for Therapeutic Temperature Management, where gender equality and the inclusion act as master. The company has received funding from the Emilia Romagna (Italian Region) Start Up Innovative fund.

4) Dr. Gemma Galdon Clavell is a policy analyst working on the social, ethical and legal impacts of data-intensive technologies. She is the founder and director of Eticas Research and Consulting, a rapidly-growing organization with aninternational presence that brings together social scientists, computer scientists and IT experts to help clients tackle the challenges and opportunities of the data society by building values into the design process. The company has received EU funding from both Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

5) Dr. Claudia Gärtner is a founder of microfluidic ChipShop in Jena, Germany. Microfluidics or “lab-on-a-chip” systems are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailored-made products and on-chip applications. In 2002 she was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop. She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications. Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

6) África González Fernández is a full professor in Immunology and Director of the Biomedical Research Center (CINBIO) at the University of Vigo in Spain. She is also co-founder of the company NanoImmunoTech, the first European company dealing with biomedical characterisation and synthesis of nanomaterials, bioconjugation and biosensing. NanoImmunoTech has received EU funding under Phase 1 and 2 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, to develop the Heatsens technology.

7) Michela Magas is the founder of Stromatolite, a Design Innovation Lab that has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. Her ecosystem has yielded multiple innovative products and services enabled by her ideas of Open Product, Market Adoption, and Innovation IP, creating a fast track to innovation. Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

8) Dr. Kamila Markram is a neuroscientist at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, one of the largest and most influential Open Access publishers in the world. Frontiers is a digital-age scholarly publishing company with a mission to bring Open Access publishing and Open Science IT solutions to academics and the general public. In 2014, Frontiers received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing. In 2016, Markram was named a L’Hebdo Forum 100 personality, a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. Frontiers has taken part in one project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, and is participating in two projects funded by Horizon 2020.

9) Sandra Rey co-founded Glowee which develops a biological lighting system that works due to the natural properties of bacteria to revolutionize the way we produce, consume and illuminate. Glowee has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) InnoEnergy programme.

10) Isabel Trillas Gay is full Professor at the Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona and has co-founded the spin-off Biocontrol Technologies, S.L. for the development of her discovery, a pesticide based on the natural microorganism, Trichoderma asperellum strain T34, to control crop diseases. In Biocontrol Technologies she is partner, member of the direction committee and scientific adviser. In 2016 the company was awarded a Seal of Excellence under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument Phase I.

11) Kristina Tsvetanova is the co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology GmbH – the World’s Most Creative Start-up 2015 and European Winner of Social Entrepreneurship and Disability. She is the co-inventor of the award-winning innovation BLITAB®. Thanks to the international recognition that she has received in Europe, USA, Mexico, Singapore, China and Japan, and her persistance in empowering unprivileged children via technology, Tsvetanova was named as one of the “Social Movers” of today by Agora+D in 2015. Blitab has received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research’s CREATI-FI calls

12) Petra Wadström, born in Stockholm and mother of four children, is the founder and CEO of Solvatten AB. Solvatten is a portable, durable, highly efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot, just by harnessing the power of the sun. She is a biochemical research technician but after years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. Being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity. Solvatten has received EU funding from Phase 1 of Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument.

The aim of the EU Prize for Women Innovators is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, to recognize the success of women in innovation and create strong role models.

Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises. Only 31 percent of entrepreneurs in the European Union are women. Prize organizers say this imbalance between the genders represents an untapped potential for Europe, which needs to use all its human resources to their full potential to remain competitive and find solutions to economic and societal challenges.

Featured image: First Prize winner Michela Magas has engaged in 20 years of innovation. Her work brings together science and art, design and technology, academic research and industry. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

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American Voters Fill Congress With Female Firsts


Elizabeth Cheney, Nanette Barragán, Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal. Images taken from their campaign sites.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 26, 2016 ( News) – Republican Donald Trump laid claim to the prize of President-elect earlier this month, accompanied by a Republican sweep of both Houses of Congress, so one might think the United States is united in its political will. Not so.

While President-elect Trump – who has often publicly denigrated women, threatened to punish women as criminals for having abortions, and has, by his own admission on tape, grabbed women’s privates without asking – consolidates his power and plans his strategies, the incoming Congress is brimming with strong females who are already first in some important way.

During the 2016 election, history was not made at the presidential level, although a ballot recount in three states, funded by the crowdsourcing efforts of Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, has a small chance of changing the outcome. That could happen only if all three states – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – are found to have elected Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump.

The number of women in Congress will remain static at 104 or 19 percent – 78 Democrats and 26 Republicans. In the Senate, a record number of 21 women will serve, 16 Democrats and five Republicans, one more than in the past two Congresses.

That’s far less than the overall American population, which is half female.

The only landmark for women’s participation is the election to Congress of more women of color than ever before, finds the Center for American Women and Politics  at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.

The incoming Congress is set to be the most racially diverse in history.

A total of 38 women of color will serve in the 115th Congress. Nine newly-elected women of color, all Democrats, will enter Congress on January 3, 2017 – three in the Senate and six in the House.

Powerful Women Ascend to the Senate


Catherine Cortez Masto is the first woman elected to represent Nevada and first Latina elected to serve in the United States Senate. (Photo courtesy Catherine Cortez Masto) Posted for media use.

Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, elected to the U.S. Senate from Nevada to replace outgoing Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, has chalked up two firsts. She is the first woman elected to represent Nevada and first Latina elected to serve in the United States Senate.

She is one of two women who come to the Senate directly from serving as attorney general in their states. Cortez Masto was the Attorney General of Nevada from 2007 to 2015, where she worked for women and children.

As attorney general,” she has said, “I made protecting Nevada women my top priority and I won’t stop until paycheck fairness is a reality for all women.

Kamala Harris will be one of two U.S. senators representing California, and she comes to the Senate directly from six years as California’s attorney general.

Back in 2010, Harris was the first female, the first African-American, and the first Indian-American person to become attorney general in California.

Born in Oakland, California, Harris is the daughter of an Indian-American mother, a breast cancer specialist who immigrated from India in 1960, and a Jamaican-American father, a Stanford University economics professor.

Harris has been an outspoken proponent for gun control her entire career. While serving as district attorney in Alameda County Harris recruited other district attorneys and filed a brief in court arguing that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect an individual’s right to own firearms.

In 2009, Harris wrote “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer,” where she looks at criminal justice from an economic perspective and attempts to reduce temptation and access for criminals. The book goes through a series of “myths” surrounding the criminal justice system and presents proposals to reduce and prevent crime.


Tammy Duckworth, the first female double amputee from the Iraq war, is moving into the Senate from the House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy U.S. Institute of Peace) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tammy Duckworth, the first female double amputee from the Iraq war, is not new to Congress. She is moving into the Senate from the House of Representatives where she has fought for veterans’ rights, as she has always done. “Serving my fellow Veterans is my life’s work,” she says.

Duckworth is the first military veteran elected to the Senate as a Democrat. She joins holdover Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, the first woman veteran elected to the Senate.

Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Duckworth lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.

I know what it’s like to fight for your life behind enemy lines and I know what it’s like to not be left behind,” Duckworth said on the campaign trail. “If you elect me to the Senate I’ll be guided by the simple notion that if you don’t give up on yourself, America won’t give up on you. I will fight for every kid trying to pay for college, for every small business trying to grow, and for every family working hard just trying to catch a break.

Then there’s Senator-elect from New Hampshire, Margaret “Maggie” Hassan, who is the current Governor of the State of New Hampshire.

A Democrat, Hassan defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte in a close race considered one of the most competitive of the year. It is the first time this Senate seat has been won by a Democrat for more than 40 years.

Hassan will serve with Senator Jeanne Shaheen; both politicians have served as New Hampshire Governor prior to unseating an incumbent senator.

Hassan has said climate change and reproductive rights would be her top priorities if elected to the Senate.

New Hampshire will once again be represented by an all women congressional delegation, as it was 2013-2015, with two women in the Senate and two in the House. All of the Granite State women are Democrats.

 When the 115th Congress opens in January, female representation in the House will drop slightly. The number of women will go from 84 to 83 as a result of the retirement of 11 female lawmakers, some of whom are being replaced by men.

A record number of 108 women currently serve in the 114th Congress, which opened in January 2015, seven more than at the beginning of the 113th Congress, which opened January 2013 at the beginning of President Barack Obama’s second term

Americans elected three new Republican Congresswomen to the House of Representatives, and two in this freshman class are also first in some important way.

Elizabeth Cheney is the first daughter of a former U.S. vice president to be elected to Congress. Congresswoman-elect Cheney is the elder daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served in the George W. Bush administration. She won Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Liz Cheney held several positions in the U.S. State Department during the George W. Bush administration. Cheney headed the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group, established in March 2006, a unit within the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

She is a co-founder of Keep America Safe, a nonprofit group founded in 2009, whose key aim appears to be to pressure the United States to remain in a state of constant military mobilization.

Before law school, Cheney worked for the State Department and for the U.S. Agency for International Development, as a USAID officer in U.S. embassies in Budapest and Warsaw. After graduating, Cheney practiced law in the private sector and as an international law attorney and consultant at the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.

In January 2012, Cheney was hired as a contributor for Fox News, providing analysis for the Republican primaries and serving as substitute host of Fox News’ programs.

On November 8, Republican Jenniffer González, 40, became the first woman and youngest person to be elected as Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress.

An attorney, González comes to the House of Representatives from three prominent roles: as Minority Leader of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, as vice-chair of the PNP, and as chairwoman of the Puerto Rico Republican Party.

At the age of 32, she was elected House Speaker by members of her New Party for Progress delegation, becoming the youngest person in Puerto Rican history to be elected Speaker of the House.

Republican Claudia Tenney comes to the House from New York’s 22nd district in the central part of the state.

 Currently an Assemblywoman in the New York State Legislature, she is the daughter of the late Judge John R. Tenney, who served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York from 1969 through 2003.

 Tenney says she wants “to unleash free market principles by getting big government off our backs.” She opposes Obamacare and has signed a pledge to oppose all tax increases in Congress.

On the Democrat side of the aisle, Congresswoman-elect Nanette Barragán is the youngest of 11 children raised by immigrants from Mexico. Barragán beat the odds and put herself through University of California at Los Angeles and University of Southern California Law School.

Barragán has worked as a community advocate in Los Angeles. In Washington, she worked in President Bill Clinton’s White House and then at the NAACP – focusing on racial and social justice issues.

 She stood up to the big oil companies to keep them from drilling in neighborhoods and on beaches. In Congress, Barragán has pledged to keep up the fight to protect air and water.


Democrat Valdez Venita “Val” Demings was elected to the House of Representatives from Orlando, Florida. She served as Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position. (Photo by RotaryDistrict6980) Posted for media use.

Democrat Valdez Venita “Val” Demings was elected to the House from Orlando, Florida. A police officer, she served as Chief of the Orlando Police Department, the first woman to hold the position.

As Orlando’s Police Chief, her holistic approach and leadership led to a 40 percent drop in violent crime. She founded Operation Positive Direction, a mentoring program that empowers at-risk students through tutoring, community service, and positive incentives.

Democrat Pramila Jayapal is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives and the first woman to represent Washington’s largest city, Seattle, in Congress.

 Jayapal was born in Chennai, India to a Tamil family and raised in Indonesia and Singapore. She came to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16, to attend college. She graduated from Georgetown University, and earned an MBA from Northwestern University. She became a U.S. citizen in the year 2000.

Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone after the 2001 September 11 attacks as an advocacy group for immigrant groups. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform. They successfully sued the Bush Administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis.

The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008. Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Democrat Stephanie Murphy is making history as the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress. She is a business consultant, professor, and former national security specialist from the state of Florida.

Born in 1978 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Murphy currently lives in Winter Park, Florida. She works as an executive at Sungate Capital, where she leads investment efforts and implements government affairs initiatives. She also teaches business and social entrepreneurship at Rollins College.

Murphy has said that in Congress she will be a strong advocate for environmental protection, for clean air and water, and for smart investments in green energy that reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make energy affordable for Florida families.

 Democrat Jacky Rosen, a computer software developer who cares about the environment, was elected to the House from Nevada’s largest city, Las Vegas.

She sees the seat as providing, “opportunities to invest in solar and renewable energy, protect our environment and reduce utility bills.” She also sees educational opportunities that will create a prepared workforce to attract business and investment, as well as opportunities “to protect our seniors and their retirement.

A leader in her synagogue, Rosen supports programs that provide meals and housing to the homeless.


Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester, center, will be the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in the halls of Congress. Campaigning June 26, 2016. (Photo courtesy Lisa Blunt Rochester campaign) posted for media use.

Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester is the member-elect for the House seat representing Delaware’s at-large congressional district.  She is the first woman and the first person of color to represent Delaware in the halls of Congress.

Rochester grew up in Wilmington, majored in International Relations at Fairleigh Dickinson University and later earned a Master’s in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware.

Believing that national security requires a strong understanding of the rest of the world has helped women enter the workforce in the Middle East, provided vaccines to children in Africa, and co-authored a book while living in China with her late husband Charles. Her book, “THRIVE: 34 Women, 19 Countries, One Goal,” profiles women who reinvented themselves while living in a foreign country.

On the state level, too, women of color are carving out places for themselves.

Former Somali refugee and executive director of the Minneapolis group Women Organizing Women Network , Ilhan Omar, for instance, has won the Democratic seat for Minnesota House Representative, District 60B.

She is the first Somali-American, Muslim woman in the nation to hold an office at this level.

The WOW Network aims to empower all women, specifically first–generation and second-generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

Omar holds degrees in business administration, political science and international studies. She completed a Policy Fellowship at University Of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and she has served on numerous nonprofit boards.

Committed to unity and justice, Omar is focused on advancing issues such as raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, closing the opportunity gap, and fighting for environmental justice and racial equity.

 Omar last week spoke out against hate. “Somehow, we must confront the racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia that plagues this country,” she said. “There are no easy answers, but we must find ways to try to end this cycle of hate.

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Hope for the Hungry


By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, July 26, 2016 ( News) – Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world go to bed hungry while at the same time, a third of the world’s food is wasted, say the number-crunchers at the United Nations food agencies.

But there is fresh hope for the hungry. Leaders of two UN agencies fighting hunger worldwide are applauding new legislation in the United States that aims to strengthen global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his July 20th signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA). The United States is the largest donor to both UN agencies.

The measure was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6 by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of otherwise great division in the U.S. Congress and politics.

The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

The new law supports initiatives to develop agriculture, assist small-scale food producers and improve nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as conflict, droughts and floods.

President Obama signed into law the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue helping countries provide their people with enough food – even after the Obama presidency ends in January.

The new law authorizes for the first time USAID‘s International Disaster Assistance and Emergency Food Security Program. This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to natural disasters or war.

And it has never been more needed. One-third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted as it moves from farm, ranch or orchard to table, at a global cost as high as US$940 billion a year, calculates the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are undernourished, the FAO reminded everyone in June.

Food loss and food waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency says, adding that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter – behind China and the United States.

In an attempt to lose less food and feed more people, a partnership of international organizations has launched a new global framework to giv businesses, governments, and other organizations ways to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the partnership, and they have developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying and reporting on food removed from the food supply chain due to waste or loss.

The new Standard was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit June 6 in Copenhagen.

3GF enables public-private partnerships to support the large-scale adoption of green technologies, practices and policies that they hope will accelerate solutions to intractable problems that markets and governments have been unable to solve on their own.

This set of global definitions and reporting requirements comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other organizions are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

Waste makes everybody poorer,” Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen said. “I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste. 3GF has promoted yet another green and innovative solution to global challenges.

The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry, alleviate pressure on natural resources and contribute to realizing the ambitious goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Jensen. “We need to push for more solutions like this for the benefit of people, profit and the planet.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the multi-stakeholder partnership convened by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and begun at the Global Green Growth Forum in 2013.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” declared Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

FLW Protocol partners include some of the largest and most influential of organizations: The Consumer Goods Forum, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union-funded FUSIONS project, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Waste and Resources Action Programme and World Resources Institute.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner acknowledged, “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.

UNEP is urging all countries and companies to use the new Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” said President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker. “The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain.

Together with tangible business solutions,” said Bakker, “the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.”

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector.

In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Some leading companies, like Nestle and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

An executive summary of the Food Loss and Waste Protocol can be found at Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard

Main Image: In the Philippines, girls eat food offered by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization. (Photo by Feed My Starving Children) Creative commons license via Flickr

Events: Women in Technology

Web Summit Women

Web Summit 2016, will be held in Lisbon this year and has become Europe’s Largest Technology Marketplace with over 50,000 attendees, 20,000 plus companies from over 150 countries.

The Summit has grown exponentially since it’s creation 6 years ago, which is perhaps a reflection of the general growth rate within the technology sector.

Though the number of companies and advancements in technology and clean technologies are increasing rapidly, the same can not be said for the number of women in technology fields.

Women have been in advanced technology since Hedy Lamarr played a key role in the invention of spread-spectrum technology (radio guidance technology) yet their numbers have never been more than an underrepresented small percent.

In January this year Elena Kvochko wrote for Forbes “Why There Are Still Few Women Leaders in Tech” the following is a section of the article that suggests that there is actually a decline in women in technology and computing sectors.

The role of women in technology has significantly stalled and, in some cases, even declined. In 2008, women on average held 25% of IT-related jobs in the US, a drop from the 36% occupied in 1991. Also, women between 25 and 34 are reporting increasing dissatisfaction with their tech careers. 56% leave their jobs at the highlight of their career, which is twice the quit rate for men. According to a Reuters study, 30% of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions. Women are becoming increasingly invisible in the thriving technology and computing sector, one of the top U.S industries and one of the fastest-growing professional occupations among U.S workers with an estimated 1.8 million jobs in computing by 2018, according to the U.S Department of Labor.

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) released “Women in IT: By the Numbers“a single page overview of compelling statistics on women’s participation in IT.

Women in IT_By the Numbers

It states that 25% of professional computing occupations in the U.S, and only 17% of Fortune 500 Chief (CIO) positions were held by women in 2015.

When you look at technology industry events you find around 25% of speakers at tech events are women.

Women speakers made up around 2% of Web Summit’s past keynote speakers, though there are hopes that the percentage will increase this year.

In fact Web Summit is offering a €45 discount to female attendees to encourage more women within tech to take part in their upcoming technology conference.

If interested use the code: WSREM51815u to get tickets before Friday, July 15

There is hope for 2016 as AWS Public Sector Summit 2016  featured keynote speakers consisted mainly of women.  Panelist Beth Bergsmark, deputy CIO of Georgetown University was quote saying “If you are a woman in tech … be out there and let them see you,”  by Samantha Ehlinger in her recent article “Women in technology say it’s time to speak up, engage others

For more up coming events in various sectors including technology see the Maximpact Blog Events Page

Gates Offers $80M to Close Gender Data Gap


By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, May 31, 2016 ( News) – Compared to the lives of men, little is known about the lives of the world’s women – how much time they spend on unpaid work, if they own land, if they can get credit, if they die in childbirth, which programs meant to help them are succeeding and which are not.

To narrow these gender data gaps and accelerate progress for women and girls throughout the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to invest US$80 million over the next three years.


Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Seattle-based foundation with her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, announced the new funding in her keynote speech at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Gates and the foundation’s team have concluded that if the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be reached by 2030, the world must expand its knowledge about the lives and livelihoods of women and girls, their welfare and well-being, and the contributions they make to their communities, countries and economies.

By adopting the SDGs the world agreed to achieve gender equality by 2030. But we cannot close the gender gap without first closing the data gap,” said Melinda Gates.

“We simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls,” she said. “We are committed to changing that by investing in better data, policies and accountability.”

“Data holds power,” explained Gates. “It demonstrates the size and nature of social or economic problems, and brings clarity around who is falling through the cracks. Through reliable data, women and girls’ lives can become visible and counted, helping to inform programming and hold leaders to account.”

Yet, despite the need and the power, there is still a lack of comprehensive, current information about women and girls, especially in developing countries, hindering efforts to advance gender equality.

The Gates Foundation‘s new $80 million commitment will support efforts intended to fill critical gender data gaps. One example would be learning much time women and girls devote to unpaid work, and how this affects their ability to complete an education, get a job or start a business.

The Gates funding will be directed to improving the accuracy and reliability of data collection, which can reveal who owns assets like land, property or credit.

The funds are expected to equip decision makers with more timely and clearer evidence about programs and interventions that are working and those that are not.

On the political level, the Gates funds will support civil society in holding leaders to account for the commitments they make to women and girls, fostering the political will to achieve gender equality.

Finally, the new money will amplify and strengthen organizations and platforms that keep gender equality at the center of global and national development efforts.

At the conference, governments, nonprofits and funding organizations agreed on a new statement of principles regarding gender data and its importance for accelerating development outcomes.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, chief executive of the children’s rights organization Plan International, told reporters that there is a huge data gap when it comes to recording the number of girls under age 15 who give birth each year.

Globally it is estimated over two million girls younger than 15 become mothers each year, and an estimated 70,000 girls aged 10 to 19 die from birth-related complications every year. But the figures are uncertain as official data usually tracks births by women aged 15 to 49 although girls can get pregnant from approximately age 10.

At the Women Deliver conference, Plan International launched a partnership with the International Women’s Health Coalition, the accountancy firm KPMG, ONE Campaign and Women Deliver, to find ways to compile better data on women and girls.

The Gates funding for gender data came just before the first World Humanitarian Summit held May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey, where women’s empowerment was a central part of the discussion.

The summit gathered 9,000 participants from 173 UN Member States, including 55 heads of state and government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

In its outcome document, Summit delegates overwhelmingly affirmed an approach that engages communities, civil society and youth, “and for the equal participation of women in leadership roles and peace-building processes.”

There were widespread calls at the Summit for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights to become pillars of humanitarian action. Participants committed to increased programming to enable women and girls to take on roles as leaders and decision-makers.

New methods and new financial support for creating accountability to gender equality programming were announced.

Plans to end tolerance of gender-based violence against women and girls were launched, and commitments were made to ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health care is fulfilled for all women and adolescent girls in crisis settings.

Several participating government officials pledged national measures to enhance the protection of women and girls against sexual violence.

The Summit pledged to leave no one behind in the quest for sustainable development for all.


World leaders and participants across the board affirmed that those most at risk of being left behind – the more than 60 million displaced, particularly women and children, will receive the global attention and support they deserve to live in safety and dignity, with opportunities to thrive.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the agency UN Women, said the Gates Foundation’s support for data enhancement will be to the benefit of women and girls around the world.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims ‘to leave no one behind.’ To bring all women and girls to the finishing line in 2030 at the same time as everyone else, we must be able to target them and their needs, and see what progress we are making,” she said.

 “Through our new flagship program initiative, Making Every Woman and Girl Count, pledged Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women commits to supporting countries to improve the production, accessibility and use of gender statistics.”

Main Image: UN Women offers computer training to Internally Displaced Persons living in the Protection of Civilians site 3 in Juba, South Sudan. Students are taught to type, to organize and file computer records, to access and browse the internet, and to send email. (Photo by United Nations Mission in South Sudan) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Image 01: Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, May 17, 2016 (Photo courtesy UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Faetured Image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center right) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with two young participants during the closing ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit, May 24, 2016, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / United Nations) Posted for media use.

‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ Means Gender Equality

IndiaWomenRiceBy Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 8, 2016 ( News) – “Women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa in her message for International Women’s Day – today.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

As UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the agency UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka (pronounced: mlam-bo hu-ka) is living proof.

A member of the first democratically elected South African Parliament in 1994, she rose to serve as deputy president of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, the first woman to hold that position.

The UN agency she heads today was created in 2010 to direct UN activities on gender equality.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” and communities throughout the world are taking steps to let their views be heard.

The official International Women’s Day 2016 website enables visitors to browse or search thousands of events celebrating this unique day: global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, performances, political events and online digital gatherings.

Investment and environment are linked in an event being held both online and in person by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington, DC.

Over breakfast, a Q & A discussion on why and how gender equality and women’s empowerment matter for environmental sustainability will feature participants from the World Resources Institute (WRI), Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Bank, among others.

Members of the public can join in via WebEx meeting or join in by phone. Click here for connection details.

The World Bank is hosting a global live chat on a second draft Environmental and Social Framework that bank personnel believe is “better for people, the environment, and for our borrowers.”

The World Bank has consulted in 33 countries on this proposal, and now wants public comments in a live chat with an expert panel from the World Bank. People can submit questions in advance here .

In Europe, health issues are first and foremost.

To mark the day, the civil society network WECF has published “Women and Chemicals,” an examination of the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides, mercury, and endocrine disrupting chemicals on the health of women everywhere.

Initially called Women in Europe for a Common Future, but now using only the acronym WECF, this international network of 150+ organizations works for a healthy environment and gender-justice in over 50 countries.

In the new publication, WECF calls for more political action for better health protection from harmful chemicals.

Corinne Lepage, chair of the WECF Board of Trustees and a former French environment minister, is worried especially about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with the natural hormones in the bodies of not only females, but males as well.

“Although we know about the threat to environment and human health, the EU Commission so far has not been able to regulate EDCs,” Lepage worries.

“In particular women and men who are planning to have children, need to be better protected from and informed about EDCs,” LePage said. “This report is a good starting point to show the linkage between chemical exposure of women and increasing rates of diseases and that political action is needed now.”

Women may be exposed to toxins when they work as pesticide sprayers, waste pickers, house cleaners or plastics industry employees, and, of course, women consume products that contain toxins.

Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to non-communicable diseases such as breast cancer, infertility or diabetes. These non-communicable diseases are today the biggest global threat to women’s health – and they are still on the rise.

WECF is one of 68 organizations that co-signed a letter to the 28 environment ministers of the European Union urging them to call on the European Commission to immediately comply with the December 2015 ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case of Sweden vs. Commission on scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors.

The letter from EDC-Free Europe states, “Scientists, health professionals and medical doctors have increasingly warned that EDCs can contribute to diseases and disorders like hormonal cancers (prostate, testicular, breast), reproductive health problems, impaired child development, and obesity and diabetes.”

WECF’s Alexandra Caterbow demanded, “Immediate steps have to be taken to end use of highly hazardous pesticides, to strictly regulate EDCs such as bisphenol A from consumer products and packaging, to ban mercury use in artisanal small gold mining, and to promote the use of safer substitutes and non-chemical alternatives.”

To celebrate the launch of its report, WECF will be hosting an Ask Me Anything on Reddit where the general public can ask questions on the findings.

Law enforcement for women is rising to the top as an important function to keep women safe.

UN Women, the Police Cadet Academy, Thailand Institute of Justice and the Embassy of Sweden came together to organize the Youth Dialogue on Gender Equality with Police Cadets in Nakorn Pathom, Thailand on March 7.

UN Women has partnered with the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney General in training police cadets and police investigative officers to protect women, end violence against women and implement the Domestic Violence Law.

Since 2012, UN Women has helped train 555 police officers.

In another part of the world, Palestinian and Israeli activists took part Friday in a demonstration in the West Bank city of Bethlehem calling for a better future for both peoples ahead of International Women’s Day.

On Monday in Jerusalem, victims of sexual abuse hugged each other after taking part in a project to speak out against sexual violence.

Some actions take the form of non-action. The UN Development Program in Afghanistan plans to stop publishing photographs on its website to highlight the plight of Afghan women, a UN official said Sunday.

Many actions today are a pledge of future action for gender parity.

The campaign theme hash tag of #pledgeforparity urges readers to take the pledge as champions of gender parity.

A host of corporate leaders have pledged to achieve gender parity in their own organizations and in the wider world, people such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; and Sir Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who said, “Equipping women with the tools to achieve their full potential in the workplace empowers us all.”

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – image courtesy of Flicker UN Women Gallery
Header image Caption: Women working in their rice paddy fields in Odisha, India’s poorest region. Trócaire works with communities to help them access government support. (Photo by Justin Kernoghan courtesy Trócaire) creative commons license via Flickr


Honors to Women and Girls Who Feed the World

  • AbedQatar

By Sunny Lewis

DES MOINES, Iowa, October 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chair of BRAC, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, was honored earlier this month as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate for improving the world’s supply.

And for building one of the world’s largest and most effective anti-poverty organizations.

Sir Fazle is first to acknowledge that the success of BRAC is built on empowering women and girls.

“We have focused attention on women so far because we felt that women could actually play a much bigger role than they have in the past,” Sir Fazle said in his Laureate Address in Des Moines October 16.

“If there is no food in the household and there are children hungry, what is the mother going to do? We deliberately focused our attention on women as change agents in our societies,” he said.

Empowering and educating women and girls has been central to BRAC’s success in confronting hunger and malnutrition and releasing millions of people from poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries.

The global reach of BRAC is unique, with more than 110,000 employees around the world, and a further 150,000 BRAC-trained entrepreneurs providing low-cost seeds, medicines and training to their rural neighbors.

“It is difficult to express in words how honored and deeply touched I am by this recognition,” Sir Fazle said upon receiving the award.

“The real heroes in our story are the poor themselves and, in particular, women struggling with poverty who overcome enormous challenges each day of their lives,” he reminded the audience.

“Through our work across the world we have learnt that countries and cultures vary, but the realities, struggles, aspirations and dreams of poor and marginalized people are remarkably similar.”


Sir Fazle, who was knighted by the British Crown in 2009, has grown BRAC from a 1972 wish to help Bangladesh recover from a deadly tropical cyclone and war of independence, until today it employs over 100,000 people, 70 percent of them women.

BRAC now operates 18 financially and socially profitable enterprises, across the health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, education, green energy, printing and retail sectors.

BRAC enterprises that reduce hunger and poverty are seed production and distribution, feed mills, poultry and fish hatcheries, milk collection centers and processing factories, tea plantations and packaging factories.

These enterprises generate income that is used to subsidize primary schools and basic healthcare.

In these ways, BRAC has been a leader in empowering women and girls through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in directing village life.

BRAC has just increased its commitment to girls’ education in low-income countries with a five-year pledge to reach 2.7 million more girls through primary and pre-primary schools, teacher training, adolescent empowerment programs and scholarships.

World Food Prize President Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, appreciates the emphasis BRAC give to women and girls.

“At a time when the world confronts the great challenge of feeding over nine billion people, Sir Fazle Abed and BRAC, the organization he founded and leads, have created the pre-eminent model being followed around the globe on how to educate girls, empower women and lift whole generations out of poverty,” said Quinn.

The World Food Prize award ceremony and Laureate Address are part of the annual Borlaug Dialogue, a food security conference named for Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to feed the world.


Chelsea Clinton, vice president of the Clinton Foundation, was one of the keynote speakers during this year’s Borlaug Dialogue, held in downtown Des Moines. Her focus was the empowerment of girls and women.

“Women are a crucial, vital and necessary part of solving the challenge of alleviating hunger,” said Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

About 800 million people “aren’t getting the nutritious food they need. And we’re not on track to feed the nine billion people we expect to have on our planet by 2050,” she said.

“We’re squandering our potential,” Clinton said, when we send signals to young girls that their looks are more valuable than their brains.

Through BRAC, Sir Fazle has been a leader in empowering women and girls not through their looks, but through microfinance, education, healthcare, and encouraging their active participation in village life and community cohesion.

“We have always used an approach to development that puts power in the hands of the poor themselves, especially women and girls,” he said. “Educated girls turn into empowered women, and as we have seen in my native Bangladesh and elsewhere, the empowerment of women leads to massive improvements in quality of life for everyone, especially the poor.”

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 Featured image: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed speaks at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative, New York City (Photo by Taylor Davidson / Clinton Global Initiative via Flickr)
Slide-show images: A) At the World Food Prize Award ceremony Oct. 16, 2015, from left, Mrs. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi (2012-2014), Sir Fazle Hasan Abed holds the World Food Prize, John Ruan III, World Food Prize Chairman. (Photo courtesy The World Food Prize) B) His efforts are respected in the Arab world. Here, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed receives the first-ever WISE Prize for Education given by the Qatar Foundation, a windfall of $500,000. From left: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalife Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar; Sir Fazle, Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, Chairman of the World Innovation Summit for Education, WISE. Doha, Qatar, Nov. 1, 2011. (Photo courtesy WISE Qatar)
Image 01: Sir Fazle Hasan Abed reads with a girl in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy World Food Prize)
Image 02: Chelsea Clinton speaks at the C2MTL Montreal, May 28, 2015, Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Photo by Mila Araujo@Milaspage via Flickr)