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25 February | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Climate activist Ayisha Siddiqa featured among Time’s Women of the Year

American weekly magazine will host its second annual Women of the Year gala in Los Angeles on International Women’s Day

NEW YORK/KARACHI: Pakistan’s climate defender Ayisha Siddiqa is among Time magazine’s 12 Women of the Year 2023, calling them extraordinary leaders who are working towards a more equal world.

The American weekly magazine will host its second annual Women of the Year gala on International Women’s Day – March 8 – in Los Angeles. Coming from a tribal community, Ayisha Siddiqa, 24, became a climate and human rights defender after being a personal victim of climate change.

At the age of 14, she realized that the environment around her was not safe. Considered a potent voice in climate change activism, she addressed the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP27) at Sharm El-Sheikh last year and shared her poem – So much about your sustainability, my people are dying.

Other honorees include actor and UNHCR Ambassador Cate Blanchett, actor Angela Bassett, musical artist Phoebe Bridgers, writer, producer, and actor Quinta Brunson, soccer player and champion of equal pay Megan Rapinoe, professional boxer and refugee advocate Ramla Ali, Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, activist and leader of war efforts for women in Ukraine Olena Shevchenko, incoming CEO of Suntory Beverages Makiko Ono, reproductive rights activist Veronica Cruz Sanchez and Brazil’s Minister of Racial Equality Anielle Franco.

Raised in a matriarchal household, some things became deeply entrenched in Ayisha Siddiqa’s consciousness, motivating her to help the vulnerable and hold polluters accountable. “I was raised with the idea that the earth is a living being, that she gives life to you and in return, you have a responsibility,” she told the magazine.

“And I think we, collectively, have come to a point where we are ignoring the cries of earth mother,” she said. “We have reached a point where we are collectively ignoring the cries of mother earth. This is how the climate crisis is linked to women and girls because of the same structures that are abusing, hurting, and taking without consent,” she said.

“This is how we treat planet earth. This is how we treat the very thing which gives us life,” she said. She highlighted last year’s flooding in Pakistan, saying the climate change in South Asia disproportionately affects women. “When people are displaced, women have to go get water, raise the children, women have to find work,” she said.

She said that there were 60,000 women that were pregnant during August and “we didn’t have enough haemoglobin,” collectively, to save them. “When they were giving birth, lots of mothers lost their lives,” she said. “We are reaching the climate crisis with a very global north lens.”

“We need to think more dynamically about the solutions,” the activist said. “The majority of the world that is facing the effects of climate change is actually citizens of unstable governments,” she said. “This is what we have to critically apply as part of the equation when we think of climate solutions when we think of legal solutions, economic and technical solutions,” she noted.

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