This year, we are celebrating World Environment Day by spotlighting female persons of colour who are leading the fight to save our planet. From campaigning to end deforestation to protecting wildlife species, combating rising global emissions and telling the stories of environmental injustice, these women are at the forefront of the global battle against the climate emergency and ecological destruction. Without further ado, here are the 10 women POC environmentalists and conservationists that you need to know about.
1. Francia Márquez
Francia Márquez is an Afro-Colombian environmental and human rights activist based in Colombia. After years of pressure on the Colombian government and organising a 350-mile protest march with 80 women from La Toma to the nation’s capital Bogotá, Márquez is considered one of the central figures to put an end to illegal gold mining on the community’s ancestral land. She has since been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018 for her work.
2. Daiara Tukano
Brazilian indigenous artist, activist and feminist Daiara Tukano is a member of the Tukano indigenous people from the Amazon. As a political correspondent and coordinator of Rádio Yandê, the first indigenous web radio station in Brazil, Tukano has been at the centre of the fight to protect the Amazon rainforest from destruction, and is also a vocal campaigner for women and human rights.
3. Varshini Prakash
Varshini Prakash is the executive director and co-founder of the environmental organisation Sunrise Movement, which has been a fierce driving force behind proposals such as the Green New Deal in the United States. Alongside other young climate activists, Prakash has been credited with putting the climate crisis into the top of the national spotlight and emphasised the connection between economic and environmental justice.
4. Wangarĩ Maathai
Wangarĩ Maathai was a renowned Kenyan environmental and sociopolitical activist, famously the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an organisation dedicated to conserve the environment by planting trees. Since its founding, the Green Belt Movement has planted over 51 million trees. As a result of her activism, similar initiatives came about in a number of other African countries including Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia as a part of the Pan-African Green Belt Network established by her organisation. Maathai passed away in 2011 and will forever be remembered for her efforts to replenish the planet.
5. Dr. Vandana Shiva
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental and social activist and food sovereignty campaigner. She famously led the charge against multinational agribusiness firms such as Monsanto for imposing “food totalitarianism” on the world, but particularly in rural agricultural communities in India where GMO crops were introduced and became a death knell for many farmers. She heads the Navdanya Trust to support organic farming in India, and has to date converted over 200,000 farmers in different parts of the country and established more than 100 community seed banks in 17 Indian states.
6. Majora Carter
Majora Carter is an urban revitalisation strategist from New York City, who founded and headed the non-profit environmental justice organisation Sustainable South Bronx. Her inspiring talk on TED called “Greening the Ghetto” has been viewed over 2.6 million times and has been widely praised for drawing the connection between environmental, economic and social destruction. She continues to promote grassroots activism to support the New York City’s most under-resourced and ecologically oppressed communities.
7. Vanessa Nakate
Vanessa Nakate is a Ugandan climate justice activist. Inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Nakate launched her own strike against environmental inaction in 2019, and founded the Youth for Future Africa and Rise Up Movement. She has since become one of the most recognisable faces in global conferences and forums on climate change, including the COP25 gathering in 2019 and the World Economic Forum in 2020. After being cropped out of the Associated Press’ photo alongside Thunberg and other youth activists, Nakate has been vocal against racism in the media.
8. Yasmin Rasyid
Yasmin Rasyid is a Malaysian environmental activist who has worked to campaign for sustainability research, waste management, social responsibility and community development in her country. She is the founder of Malaysian environmental nonprofit EcoKnights, whose mission is to assist communities to develop sustainably and promote eco-friendly living.
9. Kari Fulton
Kari Fulton is an environmental and climate justice advocate and organiser. She is currently the national campus campaign coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative in the United States, a campaign educating policymakers and communities about the connection between environmental and social issues. She also acts as the spokesperson for the Energy Action Coalition, a youth climate movement demanding a just, resilient and clean energy future.
10. Liliana Madrigal
Liliana Madrigal is a conservationist who has led the fight to protect rainforests and indigenous cultures and communities in Central and South America. As the co-founder and senior director of the Amazon Conservation Team, Madrigal liaises between different programs and indigenous communities within countries in South America, with her primary focus on the indigenous Inga, Kamsa, Cofán and Kogi peoples. She also uses her activism to advance human rights for women throughout Amazonia.
Lead image compiled by Green Queen Media, individual images as credited above.