To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we spoke to three Young Champions of the Earth - women who are already changing the world. We asked what inspires them to pursue their vision, what got them started and what keeps them going.
We also asked what advice they could share with other young people who are looking to bring a big idea to life.
Kaya Dorey, 29
Kaya Dorey began her fashion label, NOVEL SUPPLY CO., after realizing that stylish clothing made sustainably from natural fabrics were altogether absent in the shops of Vancouver, Canada. Her apparel company produces clothes which are free from toxic dyes and synthetics, sourcing hemp and organic cotton and environmentally friendly inks.
Mariama Mamane, 27
Struck by devastating cropland degradation, caused by chemical fertilizers, Mariama Mamane founded JACIGREEN in Burkina Faso. The project aims to rid Niger’s waterways of the invasive water hyacinth, improving access to fresh drinking water and protecting aquatic life.
Liliana Jaramillo Pazmiño, 29
Ecuadorian biologist Liliana Jaramillo Pazmiño uses native plants to green the rooftops of our urbanized planet. Her work aims to reduce air pollution and vulnerability to natural disasters, while protecting native flora and fauna from disappearing.
And here are their tips:
1) Network. Going to events or exhibitions focused on your interests brings you closer to other strong and inspirational women and men, who can be a powerful source of motivation and inspiration.
2) Find your tribe. Even if it’s just having a coffee with someone likeminded to discuss ideas, connecting with others can give you the courage to try new things, build your confidence and help your idea grow.
3) Write it down. Writing your ideas and goals down helps manifest them. It may be just the seed of an idea, but writing ideas down can bring them to life.
4) It doesn’t happen overnight. Ideas evolve, and some take years of trial and error. Follow your passion, take a course, take another course. Find out how you learn best, and then keep going until your vision takes shape.
5) Believe in yourself. Everyone is human and sometimes the system can be hard – there will be challenges in your way. But remembering you are capable and believing in yourself is crucial to help you navigate difficulties and achieve your goals.
6) Be flexible. Some elements of your idea may not work in the real world at first. Listen to practical feedback from those already in your field – their comments could help your idea fly where it might otherwise fail.
7) Do what you love. Yes, there will be days when you have to do the equivalent of taking out the rubbish. You won’t love doing it yet it has to be done. But whether it’s potting a plant or cutting up fabric, doing what you love can get you back into your groove when things aren’t going to plan, or when your goal seems out of sight.
8) Keep your vision in mind. What would the world look like without your idea? What change will it bring? While you don’t need to have every element figured out at the beginning, building your vision will help you stay on track when you hit challenges.
9) Take it step by step. A vision is important, but the big picture can get overwhelming. Remember to plan smaller goals you can achieve along the way, to keep you motivated and ultimately help you realize your vision.
10) Go for it! You many think your idea needs more planning, or that it’s not good enough yet. But the process of speaking to others, researching and validating your thoughts, will give birth to new and better ideas. And sometimes you have to knock on many doors to open one - so you might as well give it a try.
This International Women’s Day, we hope you’ll raise your game and join those we’re celebrating. Voice your idea. Put forward your own initiative. #PressforProgress in environmental change.
Inspired to be a Young Champion of the Earth? Apply by 2 April!
Young Champions of the Earth is an initiative of UN Environment and corporate partner Covestro which aims to identify, celebrate and support young women and men who have outstanding potential to create positive environmental impact.