6 inspiring women committed to change the world for the better

I want to introduce you to six of the incredible women I have had the pleasure to interview in the last months. Sandra Capponi, Meike van Ginneken, Servane Mouazan, Joyce Msuya, Sheila Oparaocha and Ajaita Shah are working all over the world to encourage sustainable behaviours, advocate for gender equality and climate justice, raise awareness towards climate change, support environmental activism, and contribute to improve people’s quality of life. Here is a sneak peak into our conversations.

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

Sandra Capponi, Good on You

Sandra Capponi is the Co-Founder and Head of Business Development at Melbourne-based Good On You — a company on a mission to transform the way we shop by giving us tools to enable buying decisions aligned with our values.

Despite the challenges, Sandra remains optimistic that business can be a powerful catalyst for positive social and environmental change.

“Recognise the power that you have to stand up for the issues that matter to you through the purchasing decisions you make.

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Meike van Ginneken, SNV

Meike van Ginneken started her career at Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in 1994, and has been contributing to the fight against poverty ever since.

Today, Meike is the CEO of the SNV, a not-for-profit international development organisation that works on agriculture, water, sanitation, hygiene and energy. In 2017, SNV’s projects directly improved the lives of 6.4 million people. I talked to Meike about gender inequality, the role of the private sector in bringing sustainable change, and the main benefit of working with local stakeholders, amongst other things.

“Working with local actors is the only way to get sustainable results.” 

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Servane Mouazan, Ogunte

Empowering women and achieving gender equality are not only moral imperatives, they are crucial to creating inclusive, open and prosperous societies. Yet the barriers to doing so are daunting.

In this conversation with Servane Mouazan, CEO of Ogunte, I came to the understanding that supporting females in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) was very much linked to fighting against stereotypes, false expectations and erroneous beliefs about women.

“Change is sometimes about losing power and making space for others.” 

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Joyce Msuya, UN Environment

Joyce Msuya is the Active Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which work with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organisations across the world to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment.

Joyce brings more than 20 years of extensive experience in the field of international development, international finance and partnerships. During our conversation, we talked about the emergency nature of the situation and the utmost importance for governments and the private sector to act now towards environmental issues.

“The science on climate change is settled. Anyone who tells you otherwise is peddling false promises, and they are doomed to disappoint.” 

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Sheila Oparaocha, ENERGIA

Once she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine, Sheila Oparaocha decided to change route and went for a Master’s Degree in Gender and Development Planning. She started her career working as a research associate at the Asian Institute of Technology on gender and development before joining ENERGIA in 1999.

With 19 years of experience working in the gender and energy sector, the International Coordinator and Programme Manager of the ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy is seen as one of the pioneers working on mainstreaming gender into energy policy and practice.

“We are beginning to see women presidents, women prime ministers, women in parliament, etc. Women are driving economies in developing countries. We really have to cherish what we have achieved, we have to fight for it and we need to pay attention to not set this back.”

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Ajaita Shah, Frontier Markets

Ajaita Shah is the Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets, a rural marketing, sales, and service distribution company providing access to affordable and quality clean energy solutions and appliances to low-income households in India by building a network of rural entrepreneurs.

An advocate for women-led, transformational leadership and rethinking how market based approaches and social innovation organisations can better design for scalable impact, Ajaita has been a leader in driving socially conscious business models through partnerships, and pushing ‘bottom up leadership’, keeping the rural consumer in mind. We talked to Ajaita about the challenges of bringing clean electricity to rural India, why it is essential to work with the local population, and the importance of investing in women as a key to poverty alleviation and change.

“Those who used to be voiceless, who now step up in meetings and demand to be heard; now they have the same power to negotiate.”

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Article and Interviews by Anne-Sophie Garrigou, Editor-in-Chief, The Beam

This article is also available to view on our Medium page.