Zainab Bie, a 20-year-old Indian Economics college student and climate activist is the recipient of Girl Rising’s first annual Natasha Stevens Legacy Fund award. Zainab is on a mission to combat the climate crisis through public policy, climate action, and sustainable development partnerships. She used her award to host an awareness and climate advocacy event in her hometown, Delhi, for more than 75 college-aged participants. Zainab spoke from her own experience on the importance of youth participation in climate action. The event also provided attendees with invaluable networking opportunities, enabling them to connect and collaborate with like-minded climate and gender advocates.
Congratulations on your win, it has been a privilege to get to know you through this process and learn about your passion for advocacy. What sparked your passion to address climate change and advocate for gender equity?
Growing up in India, I have been acutely aware of the pervasive inequalities that women face, particularly during times of crises and natural disasters. This awareness was amplified during a visit to an informal settlement when I was 13 years old. Witnessing firsthand the challenges and hardships that women in these communities endure on a daily basis deeply affected me. It was a stark realization of the urgency to address the systemic issues that perpetuate gender disparities in my country, India.
Moreover, the symbolism of our planet as "Mother Earth" struck a chord with me. It highlighted the interconnected relationship between the degradation of our environment and the struggles faced by women. This understanding propelled me to embark on a journey to address both climate change and gender inequity simultaneously.
My passion for climate justice advocacy and my academic pursuits in development economics have further solidified my commitment to driving meaningful change. I am driven by the belief that sustainable development is only possible when it is inclusive and considers the diverse needs and voices of all, especially those who are marginalized and vulnerable. My experiences have reinforced my determination to work towards a future where women have equal opportunities, access to resources, and the ability to participate fully in decision-making processes.
That’s an inspiring journey at such a young age. When did you start your advocacy work?
During my grade school days, I organized a series of events, campaigns, and plays addressing various societal issues to generate awareness and encourage conversations on critical topics affecting our communities. Later, I continued my work during the pandemic with my online campaigns and projects on climate action. It was during this time that I engaged in various initiatives and projects centered around climate justice, sustainable development, and gender equity. My involvement in conferences, research projects, and collaborative efforts with organizations further solidified my commitment to these critical issues. I sought to leverage my academic knowledge and practical experiences to contribute meaningfully to the discourse on climate change and gender equality.
Could tell us a little bit about how that led you to Girl Rising’s Student Ambassador program?
I became involved with Girl Rising's Student Ambassador program driven by my deep admiration for their impactful work. I have been following the work of Girl Rising and wished to be a part of the community. The staggering statistic of 129 million girls missing from schools, coupled with the systemic barriers to quality education, inspired me to contribute to this critical cause. Through the program, I aimed to actively engage with stories highlighting the challenges obstructing girls' education, to shed light on the urgency of addressing these issues.
We are really humbled to have a group of talented, courageous and prolific young people like you in our Student Ambassadors. We are grateful to support your advocacy through the Natasha Stevens Legacy Fund. Could you tell us about the advocacy work you did with the Natasha Legacy Fund winning?
With the winning of the Natasha Legacy Fund, my focus was on highlighting the critical significance of eco-feminism. I held an event in Delhi that was attended by 75 college-aged individuals. Through my event and activities, I shed light on the disproportionate impact of climate change and various social issues on women, emphasizing the interconnectedness of gender, the environment, and social challenges.
Our efforts were centered on enlightening individuals about the intersectionality of environmentalism and feminism, inspiring them to take concrete actions within their communities. I firmly believed that achieving a just and sustainable world is only possible by addressing these multifaceted issues collectively.
That sounds like a really meaningful event. What impact do you hope to create with your continued Eco-Feminist advocacy?
My deep-seated passion for change and community upliftment is rooted in the power of people coming together. I dream of a world where women lead progress, their voices shaping policies and decisions. I understand that solving climate change without fairness for all genders is an empty effort. That's why I'm dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers through my Eco-Feminist work. Hearing the stories of resilient women in my community facing incredible challenges drives me to build a world of justice, where women thrive as equals.
My aim is to plant the seeds of empowerment and sustainability, creating a ripple effect that echoes through generations and sparks a global movement for change. I seek to make real changes in the lives of marginalized women, ensuring they take part in sustainable development. Using my background in economic research and policy, I plan to implement practical solutions that tackle the overlap between gender issues and environmental problems. By advising on inclusive policies, researching gender-just economic solutions, working on policy analysis, fostering economic independence, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented women, I hope to bring about a transformative shift toward a fair and eco-conscious society.
My commitment goes beyond just words; it drives me to work with local organizations, collaborate with decision-makers, and push for gender-responsive strategies that promote overall development. My journey isn't just about talk; it's about creating a wave of change that fosters an inclusive, flourishing, and sustainable world for everyone.
That’s so powerful! Thank you for sharing your journey and experiences with us. Finally, if you could tell all the girls in the world one thing, what would that be?
Dear Girls of the World,
You are each a unique masterpiece, and your individuality is your superpower, not a limitation. Dream boldly and fearlessly, for your aspirations possess the transformative ability to shape the world. Remember to stand tall, knowing that every challenge you overcome serves to fortify your resilience and inner strength. Let's support one another, as together, we have the power to build a future where every girl can not just survive but truly thrive.
With love and empowerment,