Beyond Borders is TEDxLondon’s exploration of different topics and ideas that inspire and intrigue us. To mark International Women’s Day this weekend, we’re sharing the work of some of the incredible womxn in the TEDxLondon community.
It’s no secret that the world’s greatest issues disproportionately affect womxn. From war to natural disasters, womxn and girls are bearing the brunt of the environmental, economic and social shocks shaking the planet. Girls in conflict settings are almost two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys; at least one in five women refugees has experienced sexual violence and its effects; and girls are more likely to go hungry and take on extra work when food and resources are in short supply. What’s more, the UN estimates that 80% of people displaced by the climate crisis are women. At the same time, we’re facing a growing flood of transphobia that’s in danger of poisoning solidarity amongst womxn from the inside, undoing the gains we have made.
The good news? When womxn and girls are empowered by education, investment and leadership skills, they are a revolutionary force for good. In fact, as early adopters, first responders, entrepreneurs, community champions, domestic decision-makers, educators and caregivers, womxn are the natural leaders when it comes to mitigating and finding long-term solutions to the climate crisis and its myriad effects.
Across every country, industry and global challenge, the data is clear: if we want to safeguard the environment and build a sustainable future, we need visionary womxn to take the lead. It’s no coincidence that the face of the youth climate movement is a young woman.
In this issue, we’re spotlighting some of the womxn and non-binary people in the TEDxLondon community fighting for a fairer, safer future for all. Learn their names, support their work and spread the word like your life depends on it. Because, in all probability, it does.
“Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
The woman championing a fair, green economy
Angela Francis, Chief Advisor, Economics and Economic Development, WWF UK
“You might ask – Why do we need to change the conversation when interest in environmental issues has never been higher? Aren’t we winning? In many ways, yes: we have the support of the people who will change their lives, invest their time and energy, and make all their decisions based on how to reduce their own footprint. Now we also need the backing of people who have other things on their mind – things like paying their bills, a busy and polluted route to school for their kids, no prospects and living in a town where more businesses are closing than opening. They don’t need another thing to worry about; they don’t need to be made to feel guilty or asked to sacrifice something they don’t have. They need to know the green economy is something that works for them. I want to talk about how policy for the environment will improve our health and our quality of life; how it can deliver on the economy and create better jobs and opportunities.”
The woman who wants us to breathe easy
Beth Gardiner, environmental journalist and author of ‘Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner Future’
“Everywhere I’ve travelled I’ve seen that air pollution intersects with the biggest issues with which our society is grappling: racial injustice, economic inequality, and how we balance private profit against public good – or public harm. The dangers of air pollution are deeply intertwined with the more existential threat we now face: climate change. Both are symptoms of the same underlying problem, the unhealthy foundation on which we’ve built our world. Fossil fuels. Coal, oil, gas: these fuels have brought development and prosperity but also illness and death, and now a planetary emergency. The changes we need to make to stave off a planetary disaster are the same ones that will make us all healthier right now and save the millions of lives being lost to air pollution.”
The woman inspiring children to take action
Onjali Rauf, children’s author and founder of Making Herstory
“The few kids I had hoped might pick up my book, turned into a thousand, and then ten thousand, then fifty thousand, and then over a hundred thousand. And the children reading the book weren’t just reading it. They were self-mobilising! At first, it began with emails about the book from grandparents and parents, writing to tell me that for the first time ever, their children were asking questions about the refugees in their family history. Then followed tweets and DMs and newspaper articles about how children were asking the grown-ups of their world to help organise fundraising events for refugee charities. And then, came the most beautiful, most unprecedented of all actions: letters written by children, to the Prime Minister, demanding answers to questions and highlighting the failures of our governments to act humanely. Letters asking, begging, pleading, even giving a business case or two, to convince those in power to be kinder to refugees, to keep borders open and to help stop the wars and the climate change disasters taking place around the world. Every single letter, email, tweet, picture, conversation, question, thought I receive, signifies something that I had forgotten as an adult. That when it comes to understanding and righting the wrongs of this world, it’s the children who ‘get it’ first.”
The woman who wants every girl to have a childhood
Payzee Mahmod, campaigner against child marriage
“Childhood up to 18 years old should be a time to learn, grow and pursue dreams, not to be married and raped. Under the current law in England and Wales, child marriage at any age is not a crime. This means that children are not automatically protected from non-registered, religious and cultural marriages, or child marriages that take place abroad. A marriage can be registered at the ages of 16 and 17 with parental consent, which too often amounts to parental coercion. The onus should never be on a child to have to speak out in order to get protection from child marriage. Every child should have a safe and happy childhood, and not be at risk of losing that to child marriage or any other human rights violation.”
The person fighting for transgender rights and protection
Jamie Windust, award-winning editor, writer, speaker, model
“Trans and gender non-conforming people in the UK and across the world, have always been under threat. White supremacy and fascism are the fuel to transphobia’s fire, and as they rise and gain dominance in our world, so does transphobia. But we’ve been saying this for years. We’ve been stood here, saying the same message, telling the same stories, feeling the same emotions only to see our problems treble in size. So, here I am again, but this time it’s urgent. The current climate of transphobia in the UK is being peddled by a heavily organised minority who are using their status to stand hand in hand with fascists, all because of their fictional belief that trans and gender non-conforming people are going to endanger their safety in public spaces. That gender neutrality is going to cause them harm, when it is, in fact, the opposite
The woman on the frontlines of the rebellion
Farhana Yamin, international environmental lawyer and XR activist
“We cannot change global systems by just each one of us switching off the lights or getting rid of household plastic. Individual lifestyle changes are important, but they are not going to result in fundamental changes to our economic and financial systems – that requires politicians and regulators to take dramatic actions. I have made lifestyle changes myself by cutting down on flights and meat consumption, and not buying new clothes. But I don’t want to be guilt-tripped for not being able to live a zero-carbon life in a world that is saturated by carbon. I want industry and government to take the responsibility for making it easier for me to live a greener, cleaner, healthier life.”
Why we’re using ‘womxn’
No, that’s not a typo: ‘womxn’ is a spelling of ‘women’ that’s more inclusive and progressive. The term sheds light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers womxn have faced, and explicitly includes non-cisgender women.
Further Reading: Who run the world?
- The campaign to end child marriage
- The truth about the toxic air we breathe
- Meet 15 women leading the fight against climate change
- Why do humanitarian crises disproportionately affect women?
- Climate action can’t be separated from social justice
- ‘The biggest thing my parents raised us with was “you are here to be educated”’
- When feminism supports trans rights, everybody wins