Celebrating Innovative Women: Week 1

Women's History Month 2022

In celebration of Women's History Month, this blog will be featuring female innovators who have made incredible impacts for a happier, healthier and more equitable world thorough sustainability, environmental conservation and energy progress.

Isatou Ceesay - Gambia's Queen of Recycling

Born in the small village of Njau in Northern Gambia, Isatou Ceesay and four other Njau women founded a small initiative to educate their village on the importance of recycling to reduce the significant plastic waste that afflicts The Gambia.

Isatou and her small team grew their initiative into a full-blown recycling movement called One Plastic Bag. Using her knowledge from being a volunteer in the Peace Corps, Ceesay taught other women how to upcycle plastic waste into fashionable bags, purses, and rucksacks. With that, the N’jau Recycling and Income Generation Group was born. The movement continues to empower African women, providing many of them the opportunity to make positive environmental impacts while earning an income. One Plastic Bag has greatly improved the plastic waste problem in Ceesay’s community.

The project was recently recognised as an official community-based organisation in the Gambia, now referred to as the Njau Recycling and Income Generation Group (NRIGG). Today, Ceesay works with more than 11,000 people and NRIGG is based in four separate communities across The Gambia.

Inspired by the innovation of Isatou and the other Gambian women, author Miranda Paul and illustrator Elizabeth Zunon published a children's book named after the One Plastic Bag movement to share this spirit of environmental stewardship with children across the world.

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul (click photo to purchase on Amazon)

Read more about One Plastic Bag at OnePlasticBag.com

Purchase the One Plastic Bag children's book at Amazon

Sylvia Earle - The Sturgeon General

Born in 1935 in Gibbsboro, New Jersey, Sylvia Earle was named the very first Hero of the Planet by Time Magazine in 1998. Before this, Sylvia was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and before that, she was the first woman to tread on the ocean floor.

Sylvia Earle has spent over 7000 hours under the ocean's surface

From a young age, Sylvia Earle felt she belonged in the Ocean. Her passion for aquatic ecosystems and wildlife led her to author over 150 publications on deep sea exploration and responsible ocean conservation, while her research and advocacy earned her dozens of awards and honors, including Conservationist of the Year, entry into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and the prestigious Rachel Carson Prize.

Also known as “Her Deepness,” or “The Sturgeon General,” Earle started her journey by obtaining a PhD in phycology (the study of algae) in 1966. A deep diving pioneer, she has tied the overall record for a solo dive depth in 1986 (the first woman to do so), and founded Deep Ocean Engineering, a business that aims to improve the technology of robotic and piloted subsea systems. She was awarded Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet designation in 1998, and has held the title of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence since then. As the first woman to serve as Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), she was also the chair of the Advisory Council for the Ocean for Google Earth. An expert on the impact of oil spills, she was a crucial resource in the Exxon Valdez, Mega Borg, and Deepwater Horizon disasters.

One of her greatest contributions to ocean preservation, Mission Blue, included a global coalition of over 200 organizations aims to preserve the world’s marine protected areas, deemed ‘Hope Spots.’ Sylvia Earle recognizes the power of science, and has harnessed it to capture the imaginations of the public.

Learn more about how Ocean Blue is inspiring exploration and protection of the world's oceans here!

Christiana Figueres - Optimism in the Face of Climate Change

Climate change is daunting, and it's easy to feel discouraged when considering the uphill battle we have ahead of us. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change from 2010 to 2016, believes that optimism and trust are key in taking on the challenges of climate change action.

During her tenure as Executive Secretary, she led the UN Climate Change Secretariat's delivery of six consecutive yearly global negotiation sessions, culminating in the historical Paris Agreement in December 2015. Her engagement and close collaboration with yearly rotating presidencies provided the necessary framework and continuity that allowed every annual negotiation to build incrementally solid ground of common purpose.

In her recent piece for TIME, Christiana Figueres, always the optimist, addresses the importance of a hopeful outlook and strengthening trust. She writes, "..What we have already achieved is remarkable and shows how ingeniously humans can come together to tackle what often seem like insurmountable goals. The current crisis of doubt, of disbelief in ourselves and our capacity to effect change is a dangerous burden that we can no longer afford to drag. Fortunately, the urgency of this moment of history is at last beginning to be met by the agency of disruption. So, as we enter this extraordinary transition, let’s welcome the messiness of change, but improve our accountability and disclosure mechanisms so that we can communicate our achievements and deepen trust in the progress we are making."

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