About the Author: Maria Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.
On October 7, I had the opportunity to attend a lunch honoring six women conservationists who have dedicated their lives to saving the planet and improving women's rights. As these six heroes exemplify, environmental conservation begins at home and requires creativity, innovation, and courage.
Around the world, women are at the forefront of providing solutions to global environmental challenges, but they are also the ones who often feel the negative impact of environmental destruction most acutely. These heroes understand that fact, and through their work have improved both the environment and the lives of women.
Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya founded the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organization focused on planting trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. In 2004, she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work. Habiba Sarabi, Afghanistan's only woman governor, was instrumental in establishing the country's first national park. In Trinidad, Suzan Baptiste founded Nature Seekers to protect endangered leatherback turtles, and in Thailand, Sangduen "Lek" Chailert created an Elephant Nature Park. Another hero, Mary Mavanza, manages the TACARE program of the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania, helping to improve the lives of the people in the communities where the Institute operates. And in South America, Lucy Aquino is the director for the World Wildlife Fund for Paraguay, where she promotes environmental conservation. These inspiring women challenge us all to do more.
Women around the world have taken up that challenge and are becoming conservation leaders in their communities. In the Congo Basin alone, the United States has trained about 10,000 women in conservation and supports efforts to increase access to more fuel-efficient cookstoves, which can help reduce deforestation in addition to promoting health, livelihood and other environmental benefits. Last month, Secretary Clinton announced the Global Alliance for Cookstoves, which will elevate these efforts by leveraging new, innovative partnerships.
I hope others will take inspiration from these incredible women as we work together to protect our global environment.