Next Wednesday (19th), Gisele Bündchen, the Brazilian model and Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Environment Program (Unep) is presenting the Champions of the Earth prize to a Somali woman. Fátima Jibrell is the first Somali ever awarded the United Nations’ flagship environmental prize.
Launched in 2005, the initiative honours leaders and visionaries in the fields of science and entrepreneurship for their actions in civil society and politics. The result was announced last week, on November 6th, and the award ceremony will take place in Washington, United States. The ceremony will be attended by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and Unep executive director Achim Steiner.
Jibrell is one of the foremost environmental activists in Africa, according to information released by the Unep. Driven by the destruction wrought by civil war in Somalia, she founded the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Organization, now known as Adeso, in 1991. The organization is active in South Sudan, Somalia and Northern Kenya, striving to bring environmental and social justice to war-torn regions and communities.
Jibrell hails from a nomadic Somali pastoral family. “Somalia is basically a desert and inhabitants must learn to share water and other resources, otherwise our country will never know peace,” the activist said in a statement published on the Adeso website. The Somali activist has fought charcoal trade, which threatened acacia trees in her country. Through her efforts, the activity was prohibited, and Jibrell promoted the use of the butterfly parabolic solar cooker to replace charcoal in cooking.
Through the Adeso Pastoral Youth Leadership Program, thousands of young people, mostly girls, were trained to better preserve natural resources and secure their livelihood without degrading the environment. Adeso has benefited over 1 million people through its actions. Jibrell has won other international prizes. She has retired, but remains an active member of Adeso, and currently lives between Somalia and the United States.
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