Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders

by Global Diversity Foundation
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Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Event poster
Event poster

Throughout human history, and in many indigenous societies and cultures today, the passage from adolescence into adulthood has been marked by initiatory ceremonies and structured, supervised ‘rites of passage’. While adulthood initiation rites are culturally and contextually specific, they share a common goal: to transform young people into fully-fledged, mature humans. Unfortunately, contemporary ‘Western’ society has largely done away with these rites: the world over, youth are growing into adulthood without ceremonies or rituals to mark their transitions. They also lack the strong containers needed for facing themselves, reflecting on their dreams and strengths, and preparing them to fulfil their future roles and responsibilities within their family and society. Similarly, adults are moving into the final phase of their lives without initiations or honouring ceremonies, becoming merely ‘olders’ rather than the ‘elders’ the world so very much needs. 

Indeed, many of the urgent, interconnected crises humanity is facing stem in part from the fact that we are living in a world of uninitiated adults, governed by uninitiated leaders. Meanwhile, around the world, many cultures’ rites of passage practices have been outlawed, shamed, or shut down, while those that do continue have, in some instances, been reduced to a shell of their former complexity, nuance and power. 

These thoughts inspired our December 2021 In Conversation event. We hosted a GEN In Conversation about Rites of Passage in the 21st Century, moderated by Rachael, an attorney with expertise in community land protection, land tenure security, access to justice, and legal empowerment. Rachel was in conversation with a deeply inspiring group, who are all working on reviving, reinventing or maintaining rites of passage in their communities. We heard perspectives from Kenya with Dr Karambu, who is renowned for her work in innovative and sustainable models of development & peacebuilding, women’s human rights and global leadership programs around the world, and Naomi, who co-founded an initiative working with young vulnerable women and girls from rural communities on menstrual hygiene and empowerment. The discussion was further enriched by Hugu, a tribal mobiliser and organiser of Indigenous Taiwan based in Pongso no Tao, and Max, who works on researching and developing modern forms of rites of passage in the UK. 

Together, we had a lively discussion about the kinds of rites of passage that exist in the world today to support young people and adults as they move through key life phases. Naomi and Dr Karambu talked about their experiences and challenges in creating new rites of passage that maintain the powerful content their ancestors perfected but in new forms more suited to the present. Hugu talked about rites of passage in Taiwan, and how his work supports the communities he is part of to maintain and revive meaningful rites of passage locally. Max brought experiences from reinventing rites of passage in the UK, and reconnecting young people from urban settings to nature.

We are pleased to share the full recording of the event with our GlobalGiving donors. The current planetary crises demand that humans radically adopt new processes, practices, ideologies, and ways of working. We need a legion of initiated adults to lead us. But how can we revive or restore rites of passage to provide this powerful experience to the young people in our communities? Watch our conversation to hear our thought-provoking discussion.

Speakers bio's:

Rachael Knight is an attorney with expertise in community land protection, land tenure security, access to justice, and legal empowerment. She is currently a Senior Associate on the Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment team at the International Institute for the Environment and Development (IIED). She helped to found Namati, and created Namati’s Community Land Protection Program, then served as its Director from 2012-17 and as its Senior Advisor from 2018-2019. In this capacity, together with land rights advocates throughout Africa, she co-created an integrated model of community land protection that is now practised around the world. Previously, she was Director of the International Development Law Organization’s Community Land Titling Initiative, and has worked as a consultant for FAO since 2004. She supports governments to draft land laws that formalize customary land rights and protect community lands, and has written various books and guides for community land protection advocates and activists, available at: https://namati.org/ourwork/communityland/community-land-protection-publications.

Daktari Karambu Ringera

Born and raised in Meru, Kenya, Dr Ringera earned her PhD in intercultural communication in 2008 from the University of Denver. She is an alumna of Natal University, South Africa, the Iliff School of Theology in Colorado. She received her Bachelor of Education degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Dr Ringera is also a lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Dr Ringera is a 2016 Cordes Social Entrepreneurs Fellow; a 2015/16 Next Generation Leader Fellow of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, USA; the 2015 Life Achievement Award and 2015 Master Scholar Award winner, University of Denver, USA; and the 2012 African Achievers Award, UK – for her cutting edge work in innovative and sustainable models of development & peacebuilding, women’s human rights and global leadership programs around the world.

She has used her extensive academic background and international experience to design and implement effective models of community engagement, women’s grassroots programs, collaborative problem solving, preemptive and post-conflict reconciliation, and health campaigns. In Meru, Kenya, she has built a successful, working model of “Amani Homes,” community homes of peace for orphans and vulnerable children, and Tirigi (“the place of abundance”), a permaculture centre that trains people in the community on how to develop and sustain successful food sovereignty projects. Tiriji has become a training centre for peace and leadership programs. Karambu is a visionary, an activist, a compassionate, committed, formidable force for change, and an inspiration to all who meet her.

Naomi Mwangi

A strong feminist with world change passion, working at International Peace Initiatives (IPI) as the Executive Director. Naomi cofounded Kila Dada Initiative to work with young vulnerable women and girls from rural communities on menstrual hygiene and empowerment. She is a community hub representative at the Nile Journeys, a certified Gender Equity and Reconciliation International facilitator to bring the lost healing into the world. Naomi has hosted two Kenya Global Youth Peace Summits in Meru, Kenya gathering young youths from different parts of the world but mainly Africa. She is a well-known facilitator at the New Generation Leaders Program (NGL) empowering young activist leaders looking for a path to take and own. With all these motivations, Naomi is the founder of Ubuntu Voices International (UVI) that works with young people to heal their ancestral wounds through the ubuntu philosophy, ¨I am because you are.¨ In her belief in oneness, rites of passage for women in deepening their closing and openings in life. Naomi is taking more opportunities to keep her heart open on learning and exploring with no judgements.

Sutej Hugu

Sutej Hugu is a tribal mobiliser and organizer of Indigenous Taiwan based in Pongso no Tao. In his role as Regional Coordinator for East and North Asia of the ICCA Consortium, he has also supported cross-regional networking in the Austronesia – the Indian & Pacific Oceans, helped establish national working groups for ICCAs in China and Mongolia, regional working group for marine territories of life in East Austronesia & Pacific Islands, and helped launch the Taiwan Indigenous Conserved Territories Union (TICTU), a federation for the 748 tribal communities of the 16 ethnic groups whose territories overlap almost entirely with state protected areas and national forests. He is the Chief Adviser of the Indigenous Taiwan Self-Determination Alliance (ITW-SDA) since 2019, and mentoring the Indigenous leadership kernel “On the Indigenous Way.” In 2021, he initiated the workshop series: “Solidarity Exchange on Indigenous decolonization and sustainable self-determination for sustaining territories of life” with partners from Asia, Scandinavia and Latin America.

Max Girardeau

Max Girardeau has been researching and developing modern forms of rites of passage for 6 years through his work with The Visionaries. He trained as a wilderness rites of passage guide with the School of Lost Borders, is a qualified Mountain Leader and Trauma & Mental Health-informed Schools Practitioner. He has extensive experience with The Way Of Council and is passionate about ecocentric approaches to child and community development. Support The Visionaries on Patreon.

Thank you for your support!

(Please note this author has permission to use all of the above names).

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Fortress conservation is a persistent model in the post colonial world. This conservation approach carries the belief that biodiversity protection is achieved through creating pristine environments, i.e. ecosystems which are free from human disturbance. Mostly created, funded and heavily lobbied by the Global North, this top down approach often excludes, quite violently, local communities and their traditional knowledge practices. In doing so, power imbalances intensify.

The idea for our August 2021 In Conversation event came about as GEN members, Milka and Kendi, outlined the root causes behind the problems faced by the Sengwer people in Embobut Forest, Kenya, where fortress conservation prevails. As Milka and Kendi developed the collaborative project, Revitalizing Sengwer people-land relationships through Indigenous Knowledge in Kenya, we learned elaborate details about knowledge systems encoded within the Sengwer story of origin, land use practices, and relationships with nature, particularly the Embobut forest and its associated resources. This interconnection with the natural environment influences all aspects of Sengwer ways of being, from cultural expressions (song, dance, stories, crafts, dress, food) to governance systems. Unfortunately, these knowledge systems and land management practices continue to be undermined. Since the early 1900s to present day, the Sengwer people continue to face evictions from their ancestral lands, which become heavily militarised fortresses in the name of environmental conservation.

During the event, titled Colonial Conservation and Uneven Development: The Struggle for Radical Transformation and Alternatives, Milka and Kendi were joined by Suzanne, co-founder of the UK Tar Sands Network, which challenged BP and Shell investments in the Canadian tar sands in solidarity with frontline Indigenous communities, and Ashish, founder-member of Kalpavriksh, a 40-year civil society organization in India focusing on environment and development issues. Together, they shared their first-hand experiences of the ways Indigenous Knowledge and community-led education can revitalise our human connection to land and build resilient, thriving societies.

We are pleased to share the full recording of the event with our GlobalGiving donors. Around the world, traditional Indigenous territories make up 22% of the Earth’s surface, overlapping with areas that hold 80% of the planet's biodiversity (Sobrevila, 2008). In order to seek alternatives to colonial conservation and radically transform uneven development models, it is imperative that Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge are at the forefront of the conversation. 

Thank you for your support!

Milka (left) with Kapko women (by Elias Kimaiyo)
Milka (left) with Kapko women (by Elias Kimaiyo)
Kendi, one of four speakers at the August event
Kendi, one of four speakers at the August event
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Retreat participants
Retreat participants

The Global Environments Network - in collaboration with Camille (The Collective Liberation Project) and Farzana (Healing Justice London) hosted a 6-day residential retreat, exploring how embodied grief practices can support environmental advocacy and transformative justice in the UK context. The retreat prioritised people with recent ancestral histories of migration or colonisation and was an opportunity to put into practice the Weaving Grief, the Body and Transformative Justice Toolkit research led by Camille, in collaboration with GEN Director, Nessie Reid.

The grief tools explored within the toolkit are predominantly inspired by the work of Malidoma and Sobonfu Some, Francis Wellner and Martin Prechtel. These authors have rich experience using ritual as a way to befriend grief. Art therapy interventions were also woven into the retreat experience, allowing participants to creatively unearth how grief work can be explored in their individual, as well as collective contexts.

Participants were taught embodied self-regulation practices throughout the retreat, based on a variety of somatic practices, such as butterfly taps, crossing-the-midline exercises, scream and moan therapy. Dance therapy, free writing and journaling, drawing, painting and peer counseling practices were used in order to integrate people's experiences.

The retreat provided a space for a majority people of colour (POC) group (20 people in total) to practice embodied techniques and rituals that explore how we can work with our grief to weave resilience, grow strong networks of community care and generate hope, in order to create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. We held a container which had a strong interfaith foundation, allowing for spirit to be part of the conversation in a way that is not dogmatic and allows for a myriad of beliefs to coexist. The retreat took place at The Quadrangle in Kent, UK - a stunning retreat centre. 

In August this year, GEN will be publishing an open-source toolkit with tried and tested tools designed to weave grief, the body and transformative justice together. Watch this space. 

Drawing from a 'Herbs for grief healing' exercise
Drawing from a 'Herbs for grief healing' exercise
Farzana - retreat co-facilitator
Farzana - retreat co-facilitator
Craft session following a grief ceremony
Craft session following a grief ceremony
The dreamy Quadrangle retreat centre
The dreamy Quadrangle retreat centre
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Ugo mentoring Abdeldjalil at MERA
Ugo mentoring Abdeldjalil at MERA

2021 is a monumental year for us: it marks the tenth anniversary of the Global Environment Network: a project under the Global Diversity Foundation. In 2011, Gary Martin, GEN Founder and Advisor (and a dear friend of mine), posed a crucial question: where have all our environmental leaders gone? He wanted to know what support networks and mechanisms exist for those working on the frontlines of environmental conservation and social justice who often experience feelings of isolation and burn-out. To address this, Gary brought together a group of 20 young and emerging leaders to the first ever Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) in Bern, Switzerland. 

A decade on, and almost 600 members strong, we feel now is an opportune time to revisit and reimagine GEN's wider mission and vision. As we begin to (once again) emerge from lockdown in some parts of the world, we are cautiously - but determinedly - planning in-person GEN events, such as our Weaving Grief, the Body and Transformative Justice Toolkit #1 retreat in June and GESA 2021 in August of this year. Thanks to a recent fundraising success, myself and the core GDF team will begin working with an external consultant to develop the Global Diversity Foundation's 5-Year Strategy, as well as our wider fundraising and communications strategies. We want to ensure that we are reaching our impact potential and in the context of GEN, serving our members in the best way we possibly can. To do this, we need to ensure our why, how and what is crystal clear. We are really excited to be embarking on the next chapter of GDF's story. 

As part of this effort, a central focus of 2021 will be developing our GEN mentoring package. Until now, the GEN mentoring programme has been informal and based around in-person events. We feel it is time to use our wealth (and years) of experience to create something more structured and long-term for our members. Myself and my GDF colleagues - Pomme, Emily and Rachid - are currently taking part in the MAVA Foundation's Leaders for Nature Academy. Run in collaboration with Common Purpose and Mowgli Mentoring, this year-long academy has already proved to be deeply rewarding and informative in a way that we could not have predicted. The Academy is a leadership development programme which bringing together two generations of leaders – senior and young professionals with an aim to support us to raise our awareness of leading self and impact on others, develop greater inter-generational understanding and cooperation, enhance our ability to Lead Beyond Authority – increasing our ability to lead and collaborate across boundaries and experience the power and potential of mentoring which supports long term personal and professional growth.

Many of the skills and tools shared in the Academy will form part of GEN's revised mentoring programme, which will focus on specific areas of development, such as Women in Leadership and Solidarity Leadership. Watch this space for more details and how you can be a part of the GEN Mentoring programme.     

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Practical retreat at GESA 2018
Practical retreat at GESA 2018

Given the tumultuous political situation with the US Presidential elections, together with the many opposing views circling the globe about the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt important to dedicate November to communication at GEN. On the 3rd, we had the pleasure of hosting a GEN In Conversation event between social psychologist and climate communication specialist Irina (GESA 2018) and shiatsu practitioner, psychotherapist and cultural champion Sandhya on Communicating in Times of Polarity. Together, we explored the psychology behind polarisation, and the deep identity processes that lead us to take strong positions and defend them vehemently. Often when we polarise, we also dehumanise the person standing in front of us. This can lead to forgetting their unique story and who they are as a multidimensional person. How do we communicate in ways that forge connection and understanding, rather than build up walls of prejudice, divisiveness and ultimately isolation?

We are delighted to welcome both Irina and Sandhya back to lead interactive workshops, which will delve deeper into the ways that conflict and polarisation can be doorways into growth and connection (17th November), as well as offering tools for listening to polarities within the body (1st December). We invite you to read more about these workshops by following the links to the respective event pages on our website.

In other news, nine GEN members from Africa, Asia and South America have been awarded seed funding from GEN for five projects that strive to improve the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of their respective regions. The provision of this seed funding is part of GEN Project Packages, which include tailored mentoring, comms support and advice specific to each of the project needs. Read their project descriptions here and follow each link to find out more details.

Antonia, Julian and Constanza are supporting Taller Witral, a working and teaching space in Chile built by Patricia Ayelef, an expert weaver, knitter and natural dyer of wool. Also in South America, Daniel, Manuela and Abigail are offering live virtual and recorded sessions of eco-psychology and indigenous wisdom in the context of a global crisis and changes under COVID-19 and environmental, societal and economic risk drivers and issues. Across the Pacific Ocean, Aini is working to produce, promote and distribute a storybook on Malaysian primates aimed at engaging the attention of young people around the issue of wildlife conservation at an early stage of their lives. Azim, who hails from Bangladesh, is raising environmental awareness and reducing environmental footprints through eco-friendly bags and accessories, while Aina plans a two-day workshop in Madagascar for conservation NGOs to share expertise and learn from each other.

Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist, said ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ GEN is built upon this belief, and with your generous donations, we are able to continue to support our  members from around the world to build themselves as leaders, striving for positive social and ecological change.

~

(above): Irina leads an embodied session on process work with Wangui during the Practical Retreat at the Global Environments Summer Academy 2018. (Photo by I.Tekguc/GEN)

Photos below are provided by the respective projects.

(1) Lesson on deep ecology
(1) Lesson on deep ecology
(2) Aina prepares for a workshop in remote Mangevo
(2) Aina prepares for a workshop in remote Mangevo

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Global Diversity Foundation

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Nessie Reid
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