How Women are Changing the World and Helping Others

June 20, 2016

How Women are Changing the World and Helping Others  

The U.S. Department of State advocates for major, far-reaching, worldwide projects like the Global Health Initiative, the Feed the Future Global Hunger Initiative, and the Food Security Initiative.  These endeavors are all in pursuit of global stability, peace, and prosperity, given the recognition that the attainment of  these lofty goals depends on advancing and protecting the rights of women around the world. Or, as the Department of State website sites, “Research shows that progress in women’s employment, health, and education can lead to greater economic growth and stronger societies.”

So, women around the world nowadays are not only out to make a difference and lead social change, but their success in doing so affects society as a whole.  And social change can take many forms. While not concerned exclusively with the rights of females, one of the organizations at the forefront of the enormously game-changing pursuit of societal transformation is Cool Effect (helmed in part by women), which focuses exclusively on supporting carbon-dioxide reducing projects in an effort to leave our Earth a cleaner planet than when we arrived.

Cool Effect’s Efforts on Climate Change

Marisa de Belloy, Chief Operating Officer at Cool Effect, explained their chief aim as follows: “Our goal is to help people take immediate action against climate change in a simple, transparent and tangible way.” Marisa started working in the field when she realized that every human rights issue she cared about was getting worse due to climate change. “The refugee crisis, women’s health and forced labor are just a few examples of issues that will only get worse as certain areas of the world become uninhabitable, diseases sparked by a warming earth are spread, and competition for resources increases even further,” she explained. “For me, this is the defining issue of our time. We’re bringing a level of transparency to this market that has never before been seen, and by doing that, we’re shaking up the status quo. This is social change 2.0, and I am thrilled to bring this kind of approach to climate change!”

Making sure her team has what they need to be effective, Marisa is busy negotiating partnerships. “This past year I’ve been to a conference at Yale on Climate Change, the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, and most recently, SXSW in Austin.  I also had the honor of spending some time with Bea Perez of Coca-Cola in Paris, and was greatly inspired by her work at making Coca-Cola environmentally friendly.”

Climatizing on the Farm

Reducing greenhouse gases is another crucial task in the “change-the-world thru eco-consciousness” movement. It is especially important to the farming industry, since plant biotechnology and crop protection products have helped farmers significantly cut their greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change. This is a particular area of focus for farmer and registered dietician, Jennie Schmidt, who notes that “it is a privilege that a female farmer can be called upon to talk about the science and application of biotechnology. Toward that end, last year I spoke to the biotechnology/genetic engineering committee of the National Academies of Science.”

Jennie has used her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition (with a focus on food and agricultural biotechnology) from the University of Delaware to become an expert on matters such as biotechnology, GMO’s, and how water quality affects farming outcomes.  She has made it her mission to travel and spread the word on these issues through various speaking engagements.

For instance, she spoke last year at the Global Food Security Symposium at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to note how farmers are using technology to improve sustainability. “I am passionate about nutrition and international agriculture and improving the ability of countries to feed themselves in a sustainable manner,” she noted.

Regarding the highly debated topic of GMO’s, Jennie, a self-described “Foodie Farmer,” looks to and highly respects plant geneticist Dr. Pam Ronald of UC Davis. “She co-wrote the book Tomorrow’s Table with her husband, an organic farmer. I think their approach is the most synergistic and ecologically forward-looking, as we look to produce more food with fewer inputs, while using less resources.”

Female Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of Social Change  

Sally Osberg is President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, an entity with the ambitious goal of engendering global change by supporting social entrepreneurs whose specific mission is the betterment of society. By the beginning of 2016, the foundation had awarded grants to more than 91 organizations.  Osberg is also the co-author, with Roger Martin, of Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works.

Osberg founded the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in 2004. It has become the largest gathering of innovators around the world, and at the 2016 event held in England on April 13-15, speakers included Eleanor Allen, CEO Water for People; Corinne Gray, Innovation Engagement Officer at UNHCR, and the Founder & President of Global Grassroots, and Gretchen Steidle, among dozens of other female and male social entrepreneurs.

“To make enough of a difference, in time and at scale, we need social entrepreneurs and their solutions to point the way,” said Sally at the World Forum. “Social entrepreneurs know that justice represents a human need as fundamental as food or shelter. Indeed, research shows that children as young as two or three recognize when a wrong has been done and instinctively seek to right it.”

Osberg’s other roles?  She advises The Elders, an eclectic group of leaders working for peace and human rights (whose past members have included Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter), and she is also a Founding Board Member of the Social Progress Imperative and Index. This organization provides a professional benchmark/measuring tool by which the progress of individual societies towards social change can be gauged. Osberg has also worked with myriad other groups such as the United Nations, USAID, and TED.

Supporting Women thru Social Change

A community interest B Corp in England, Ogunte is an organization that has the clear-cut focus of helping women entrepreneurs. They believe that women can produce change on a global basis through economic self-empowerment, and have so far offered programs to over five thousand female entrepreneurs, including many in the developing world.  These programs often include coaching and technical assistance.

Many of their events — including recent talks on STEM, reducing poverty, and social enterprise– are based in London.  They also give out a Woman’s Social Leadership Award, and are collaborating with the Womanity Foundation on a program to reduce and prevent violence against women.

All of the above organizations and individuals – Cool Effect, Jennie Schmidt, Skoll, and Ogunte –recognize that helping others in the world eventually always brings about a richer, better social environment for all.  Whether it is improving the food supply, ending violence against females, offering micro-loans and education to women in the Third World, or helping the most innovative social entrepreneurs come up with even more cutting-edge ideas, the women and people behind these efforts improve our world in immeasurable ways.