The powerful women on the front-lines of climate action
Farwiza is a rainforest conservationist, chairperson of Forest, Nature & Environment Aceh (HAkA), and a NewNow leader. Virgin Unite first met Farwiza when The NewNow formed in 2017 and we’ve been in awe of her commitment to restoring rainforests and protecting endangered species ever since.
As leader of HAkA, a homegrown Indonesian NGO, Farwiza is striving to protect the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra (the last place on Earth where the Sumatran rhino, tiger, elephant, and orangutan still roam together in the wild). She lives on the frontline of climate action alongside many other powerful women.
Farwiza shared the story of Sumini, a fellow female conservationist and leader of Indonesia's first women-led ranger team. Sumini’s own climate action is focussed on her local community, situated on the edge of the Leuser Ecosystem. This area of Indonesia still operates under strict patriarchal structures and thus presents daily challenges to the all-female team.
They're embedded in the community, so they learn to navigate the tricky path of being a strong female leader in a conservative patriarchal society.
Sumini and her fellow conservationists often find themselves patronised and undermined as they go about their work - though according to Farwiza, their power lies in their patience and persistence. “They're embedded in the community, so they learn to navigate the tricky path of being a strong female leader in a conservative patriarchal society. Unlike a conservation expert that parachutes in from outside, Sumini and her team are here to stay, so their approach is instantly different,” said Farwiza.
According to the most recent IPCC report, 3.5 billion people are currently highly vulnerable to climate impacts, and half the world’s population are suffering severe water shortages at some point each year. Half a million more people are at risk of serious flooding every year, and a billion living on coasts will be exposed by 2050.
At this point, we also know that tropical forests are a stabilising force for climate, and that protecting tropical forests is one of the most cost-efficient ways to avert climate disaster and biodiversity collapse. Farwiza belives the conservation world needs an overhaul.
Women in the communities are the guardians of environmental wisdom, yet they are often an untapped source of knowledge, underappreciated and therefore under resourced.
“We need more women in the position of leadership - women from the grassroots, women like Sumini. Women make up half of the world's population, yet only a fraction sits at the decision-making table. Women in the communities are the guardians of environmental wisdom, yet they are often an untapped source of knowledge, underappreciated and therefore under resourced,” said Farwiza.
Farwiza and Sumini are incredible examples of people committed to protecting the planet, but we all have a role to play – and we can all make a difference. This World Earth Day, climate activists everywhere are calling for people to use their skills and voices to help fight climate change. Whether it be diverting from unsustainable investments, supporting eco-conscious brands and products, or cleaning up local parks and beachfronts, it’s time we all show courage to preserve and protect the planet, our health, our families, and our livelihoods.