In the almost two years working at Climate Tracker, I have not only learned tons of things but also met amazing talented women from different regions of the world. We share similar views about the world, fight for the same cause and celebrate our achievements together. Their passion and beliefs inspire me to go after my dreams and keep fighting.
On International Women’s Day, I wanted to share the stories of 5 women from our staff and past fellows, their views on feminism, and their work on climate change.
Anna Pérez Català, Spain
Environmental scientist specialized in climate change and development. Originally from Badalona, Spain, Anna had always dreamed of living in the countryside where she could be closer to nature, have a quiet life and escape from the pollution of the city. For Anna, the idea of young people returning to the countryside that is losing youth also seemed like a powerful thing to do.
A year ago, Anna and her partner finally moved to the mountains where they opened an organic bakery in their new hometown. “Not sure we gained less stress (having your own business is a nightmare), but the people we met and the surroundings are giving us a lot, and we are very happy about it”, Anna tells me.
In Anna’s words, working in climate and environmental issues has made her realize not only how humanity, and specially the current neo-liberal system, is destroying the planet, but also how this system is affecting other aspects of our lives: “how we live, how we relate to each other. And the most affected by this system are women, specially from the Global South”.
As an activist, Anna identifies herself with the feminist struggles and believes in joining forces: “We have very similar problems and demands, we face similar discriminations. And raising together makes our voices stronger and powerful, and helps find strength where you would not normally have it”.
If you follow Climate Tracker’s latest updates, you probably heard the exciting news: Anna is co-director of the organisation. She takes in the challenge with humility and optimism, “I feel it’s a huge challenge and I am still a bit overwhelmed by it. What worries me the most is that people will be okay. I want the people working for the project, or being part of fellowships and conferences to feel welcomed and at home, just like I generally feel with Climate Tracker.”
Lina Yassin, Sudan
Lina is a chemical engineer student and an environmental activist from Sudan with three years of experience in the global climate change negotiations. In 2013, Lina decided to start writing about climate change after severe floods affected her country leaving 200,000 people without homes, and hundreds without food, job or even family.
Back in 2016, at just 19 years old Lina became the youngest Climate Tracker fellow at the COP22 in Marrakech. Following the experience, she became the manager of our MENA Programme and CT’s coolest staff member.
For Lina, the role of feminism is very clear: “Sudanese women struggle does not come only from being a woman, it has social, religious and racial roots which adds several layers to the problem and therefore the need for a movement to address all those issues is essential”.
In Sudan, where Lina comes from, women have to fight just to be recognized as part of the community with a voice and rights. “Women in my country face all sort of violence and discrimination but we are also a strong nation where women are not giving up but they fighting and positively influencing all parts of the community”, she tells me.
When I ask her about the women who have inspired her, Lina talks about her sister, Moneera Yassin, who has always inspired her to work harder and never settle. In fact, Lina’s sister has established a community-based organisation to raise awareness on violence against women in Sudan and to provide primary valuable support to the survivors all over the country. A big lesson Lina has learned from other women she met and worked with is “that I should be proud of myself and always believe in my abilities and in what I can achieve”.
Annamária Lehoczky, Hungary
Climate expert holding a PhD in Climate Change, and a passionate environmental journalist, Annamária joined the CT team at COP24 in Poland on December 2018. When she was a teenager, she chose to study Earth and Atmospheric Sciences to learn more about climate change and its solutions. Annamária also explored the socio-economic aspects of the phenomenon and soon became aware of the underreporting of the issue in the Hungarian media.
Since she’d always loved to write, Annámaria started to publish about climate, environmental and social issues in different magazines. “Nowadays there are more news sites and magazines that publish climate related articles, however the narrative is not always scientifically adequate, or the message is too negative, so people feel powerless to do something about it. Therefore, I also report on sustainable solutions and climate innovations that can inspire and motivate the reader”, Annamária reflects.
In Hungary, traditional gender roles are reinforced in the government’s narrative: “Hungary’s populist government has banned gender studies programmes at universities arguing the area of study is an ideology rather than a science”, she explains.
Moreover, Eurostat data shows shocking results: in the European Union, Hungary has the lowest rate of female scientists and engineers with only 25%. “I was lucky that I’ve never really felt pressure or discouragement, my family and my university professors have been always supportive. Though I can imagine if a girl comes from a family where traditional gender roles define female occupations, it would be more difficult to pursue a scientific or whatever career that does not ‘fit to a woman’. I believe there is still a long way to go to change these stereotypes”.
To Annamária, being a feminist means breaking stereotypes about gender roles, and closing the gender gap in the workplace. “I believe it has to start with education at school and at home. For example, by telling stories to our children about powerful and smart female characters rather than only princesses that are desperately waiting for being saved by a man. We need to tell ourselves such stories that create a mindset that allows us to be fully responsible for our life choices and to fulfil those choices, regardless of gender”.
Annamária kindly shared some photos about her work as a scientist. In 2014, she travelled to the remote arctic island of Svalbard to study the impacts of climate change on glaciers, where she and her team took micrometeorological measurements in the fjord. “We set up the whole measurement site by ourselves (students and researchers). The instruments were kept in containers that we needed to dig out from the snow. In the pic it cannot be seen, but we needed to keep at least one rifle with us all the time because of the polar bears. It was February-March, so half of the period that I spent there we didn’t see the sun at all”, she tells me.
Inés Yábar, Perú
In 2018, Inés joined Climate Tracker as our communications intern and introduced herself as a happy person who makes her own hygiene products. From toothpaste to sunscreen, Inés believes in reducing waste and living a more conscious lifestyle saying goodbye to big brands while getting creative in the process. “As a world citizen, after living in different countries for the past few years (Canada, Japan and now France) making my own products has allowed me to keep my favorite creations with me all along without having to rely on stores”.
Even though Inés has been raising awareness on climate change since high school, it wasn’t until she was featured in the biggest national newspaper, while working on awareness for plastic pollution, that she realized her voice had a powerful impact. However, she prefers to inspire others with her actions: “Although I write articles, make infographics and videos, my main voice are my actions. Taking my own cutlery to events gets people talking without my need to talk. Choosing to take the bus on long journeys instead of the plane creates a ripple effect of consciousness through those around me”.
Inés is aware of the gender-based inequalities in Peru as 15% of women in rural areas in the country finish high school. This situation makes them more vulnerable to be exploited down the line and not be able to stand for their rights. Still, women in rural areas of the country are talking about climate change, “Maxima Acuña in Peru, for instance, is a woman who stood up to a big mining company that was going to destroy her home and that of many others. Her efforts were recognized by the Goldman environmental foundation. Let’s not leave her alone.”
Currently, Inés is studying her Masters in Management of International Projects in a school centered in sustainability. She also manages Climate Tracker’s Instagram account for Latin America where she creates content to raise awareness on climate change issues: “I am like the hummingbird carrying water in its beak to turn out a fire. I can’t do it alone but I do what I can”.
Tais Gadea Lara, Argentina
Multimedia journalist specialized in environment and climate change, based in Argentina but working worldwide, Tais is the environmental columnist at Canal de la Ciudad, and the author of the weekly newsletter SUSTENTABLES. She was a Climate Tracker fellow COP22 in Marrakech.
Ever since she was a little girl, Tais knew she wanted to become a journalist. She was intrigued by the possibility of reporting reality and had a special bond with nature. Those who follow her will think immediately of Queen, her 15-year-old dog who is the start of Tais’ social media.
Back in 2017 when I first met Tais in Lima during a CT workshop, I was quickly impressed not only by her hard work and kindness, but also by her passion for climate journalism. Inspired by Al Gore, Tais decided to dedicate her daily work to the communication of climate change: “It is a process of constant learning, which continues, is to become a translator of scientific data to reach the citizen, is to find a harmony between telling a problem and giving tools for its solution, is to take conscience that every word that is written or says it has an impact on the other.”
When it comes to the links between women and climate change, there are two main aspects for Tais: “On the one hand, women are one of the groups most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This can be perceived from the small context in which a natural disaster occurs and its consequences, a situation that is exacerbated in more patriarchal societies. On the other hand, women are passionate fighters to take care of the planet. They do not sit idly by. Even with all the difficulties they face, they work daily to achieve leadership positions, to make their voices heard and to inspire other women along the way”.
Tais comes from a country where a woman is murdered every 36 hours. Through her work and travels, she has seen different situations of inequality and injustice towards women, “I have lived situations of inequality for the simple fact of being a woman: from walking down the street and being told rudeness, until in a job interview they ask me if I thought about being a mother soon and that the choice would depend on that. I see around me that women suffer harassment of all kinds: from work to sexual”, she tells me.
For this reason, Tais considers herself a feminist, “not as someone who is against man, but as someone who struggles daily for equality, rights, opportunities and choice. I also see around me an incredible and passionate wave of struggle that has led me to march alongside friends and sisters, which makes me always have something green with me to demand for a legal, safe and free abortion, which means that we do not live this day as a celebration but as a reminder to continue together. And I hope that more and more men will go to the side, looking for that same equality as an objective.”.
When asked about women who inspire her, Tais doesn’t hesitate to talk about Jane Goodall, a conservationist who at 84 years old still travels 300 days a year to raise awareness about the importance of chimpanzees. Tais is inspired by Jane’s strength to face challenges and generate an impact: “When her ground-breaking research came out on the cover of the National Geographic magazine, many talked about “the long-legged blonde woman”, not about her intelligence and the magnificent contribution she had made to the history of evolution and natural life. I have had the opportunity to interview her on more than one occasion. Her words are wisdom. Her tranquility shows that the harmony of the forest accompanies it. Her message is always inspiring. I think the world needs more women like Jane.”
Plus: Tais recommends watching on Netflix the most recent documentary “Jane” to understand the story behind this amazing woman.