At Emterra, we recognize it is our diversity that creates innovation, promotes inclusivity and produces better outcomes for our customers' changing needs. That is why, on International Women’s Day, we want to acknowledge the dedication of several female leaders around the world that are paving the way to a more sustainable future, just as Emterra’s Founder and CEO, Emmie Leung, has done.
Read more about Emmie Leung and her founding story.
From the Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Autumn Peltier is a world-renowned water-rights advocate for the Anishinaabe Indigenous and the Chief Water Commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation.
Autumn grew up learning about the importance of clean water and respecting the environment from her mother and great-aunt, the “water walker.” At the age of 17, Autumn was appointed Chief Water Commissioner for her community after the passing of her great-aunt in February 2019, also gaining the title of “water walker.”
One of Autumn’s most notable moments was in 2016 when she publicly scolded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau face-to-face about his clean-water policies and breaking his promises regarding the development of pipelines in Canada. This gained Autumn international media attention, elevating her message while speaking at various conferences, including being the keynote speaker for the United Nations World Water Week in 2018. In 2021, Peltier was awarded the 2021 RevolutionHer Community Vision Youth Award for her work as the Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner in leading initiatives to better future generations.
As a leading global youth environmental activist, Autumn continues to advocate for clean drinking water in First Nation communities and around the world.
"Keep going, don’t look back, and if you have an idea, just do it; no one is going to wait for you or tell you what to do."
Isatou Ceesay is a Gambian activist known as the “Queen of Recycling,” founding the One Plastic Bag movement that turns littered plastic bags into bags, pursues, and rucksacks. Where others saw a problem, Isatou saw an opportunity to create a healthier environment and change people’s lives.
Growing up, Isatou used a woven basket to carry goods to and from her local market until it broke, causing her to start using plastic bags. Over the years, however, Isatou’s impoverished community, with no weekly curbside collection, struggled with the increase of waste in the streets. Plastic bags were killing animals, spreading disease, corroding soil, and releasing toxic fumes when burned as fuel for cooking.
With her knowledge from the Peace Corps, Isatou was determined to create change by educating women in her community on how to recycle plastic waste to build an income for themselves. Isatou and her female followers would collect plastic bags, wash them, dry them out, and cut them to make ‘plarn’ (plastic yarn). They started to crochet small purses for coins, using different coloured plarn to add pretty patterns; it took eight or more hours to make one purse, and it used up around ten plastic bags.
In 2012, Isatou won the Making a World of Difference Award from the International Alliance for Women. Today, Isatou has trained over 11,000 people all over her country in the dangers of plastic and the opportunities for upcycling waste; her community is clean and tidy, and you won’t find plastic bags piled in the streets. Thanks to Isatou’s work, the Gambian government banned the import and use of plastic bags in 2015.
"I think that when you abuse your environment, you abuse yourself.”
Winona LaDuke is a Native American activist, economist, and author, devoting her life to advocating for Indigenous control of her Anishinaabekwe homeland, natural resources, and cultural practices. She works extensively on issues of climate change, renewable energy, sustainable food systems, and environmental justice with Indigenous communities.
In 1985, Winona helped establish the Indigenous Women’s Network (IWN), a coalition of 400 Native women activists and groups dedicated to increasing the visibility of Native women and empowering them to take active roles in tribal politics and culture. The coalition strives both to preserve Indigenous religious and cultural practices and to recover Indigenous lands and conserve their natural resources.
In 1989, Winona founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP). WELRP’s mission is to facilitate the recovery of the White Earth Indian Reservation while preserving and restoring traditional practices of sound land stewardship, language fluency, community development, and strengthening their spiritual and cultural heritage.
More recently, Winona was a leader in the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests that sought to protect water access and sacred Indigenous lands in North Dakota. Her latest endeavour is her Hemp & Heritage Farm - a nonprofit agency designed to create an Indigenous women-led economy based on local food, energy, and fibre.
“If we build a society based on honoring the earth, we build a society which is sustainable, and has the capacity to support all life forms.”
Dame Ellen McArthur was first known as an English yachtswoman, setting a world record in 2005 for the fastest solo nonstop voyage around the world on her first attempt. Ellen’s sailing voyage allowed her to experience resource management, carrying the minimum amount of resources to survive and allow her boat to be as light and fast as possible. “My boat was my world...I had become acutely aware of the true meaning of the word ‘finite,’ and when I applied it to resources in the global economy, I realized there were some big challenges ahead,” said Ellen.
Ellen began a new journey of learning to understand how our economy works, realizing that the solutions to our biggest problems don’t only involve how we make energy but also how we use materials. We have been raised on a throw-away and replace culture, meaning that when something is no longer working as it should, we throw it away and replace it with the latest. However, from the precious metals in our electronics to the sand in cement used to make buildings, everything we use is in limited supply.
In 2010, after Ellen retired from sailing, she launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the United Kingdom, which promoted efforts aimed at reinventing traditional modes of economic production and consumption. The Ellen McArthur Foundation is a charity committed to creating a circular economy. To make and scale a circular economy, businesses, governments, and society must work together and redesign how we eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value), and regenerate nature.
“If we could build an economy that would use things rather than use them up, we could build a future.”
In August 2018, Greta Thunberg protested outside Swedish Parliament with a sign saying, "School Strike for Climate," to pressure the government to meet carbon emissions targets. Her small campaign exploded across the globe, inspiring thousands of young people to organize their own protests under the movement, Fridays for Future (FFF). In 2019, more than one million protestors of FFF stood on strike for climate change in 125 countries.
In childhood, Greta was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome; people with Asperger syndrome tend to focus deeply on one idea or interest, and Greta’s cause became climate change. At eight years old, Great first learned about climate change and started changing her own habits by becoming a vegan and refusing to travel by airplane to cut down on the gases released in these practices.
Greta has since received numerous invitations to speak about climate change, giving speeches at the World Economic Forum, European Parliament, and United Nations conferences. Greta is credited with shifting people’s views and behaviours regarding climate change – her influence is known as “the Greta effect” as she is often provocative in her messaging.
“Hope doesn't come from words. Hope only comes from actions.”