In honor of International Women’s Day we are celebrating extraordinary women all week long. Through our travels, we have been lucky to encounter and learn about so many women who are breaking boundaries and empowering others in their own communities and across the globe. From a Namibia-based conservationist to the founder of a women’s artisan collective, these female pioneers are working tirelessly to make a difference and enact change for future generations and their unique projects are creating intercultural dialogues. We hope their stories will inspire you as much as they have inspired us.
What She Does: With a background in world religions and ministry, Susan Hull-Walker has a knack for connecting with and inspiring others. A fascination with textiles and the global community led her to found Ibu in 2013, which works with women worldwide to highlight their craftsmanship and support their communities. Today, Ibu works with over 100 different collectives in 38 countries to sell and promote textiles, clothing, jewelry and homewares handmade by female artisans. And this spring, Ibu is launching a non-profit arm of the organization to help women access markets and more business opportunities. The Ibu flagship in Charleston displays the gorgeous textiles and fashions designed by women from countries such as Turkey, Afghanistan and Namibia and can also be viewed and purchased online at ibumovement.com.
How She Inspires Us: Susan Hull-Walker’s dedication to supporting and promoting the work of craftswomen is empowering women globally. She says, “I am propelled by this beautiful obsession—to elevate women; to celebrate the remarkable work of their hands and imaginations; to respect and pay them justly and let them lead. We want to put money in the hands of women, thus changing her choices, her children’s health and education, the future of her community, and do so by preserving women’s cultural languages—the unique story-tellling in textiles and other materials that have expressed the soul of women for centuries.” Her pioneering approach is bridging authentic fashion and style (she has partnered with such acclaimed designers as Charlotte Moss) and traditional artisanship to give a voice to female entrepreneurs across the world. Through Ibu’s mission, women are able to support their families, develop their artisanship and serve as an example to future generations of women as leaders in their communities.
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Dr. Laurie Marker
What She Does: Laurie founded the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), a research center in Namibia, in 1990 and is renowned as the Jane Goodall of cheetahs. She began her career at Oregon Wildlife Safari, where she created a cheetah breeding program and spearheaded research on whether captive cheetahs could be successfully released into the wild. She traveled to Namibia and witnessed conflict between wild cheetahs and farmers, which inspired her to create a center in Namibia that focuses on protecting Namibia’s native cheetah population. The CCF works on initiatives such as relocation of endangered cheetahs, controlling cheetah gene mutations and educating the Namibian people about cheetah survival. Awarded the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and with a doctorate from Oxford University, Laurie has worked with the National Zoo, the National Cancer Institute and the Centre for New Opportunities in Animal Health Sciences in an effort to protect and sustain Namibia’s native cheetahs, the largest population in the world. Today, Laurie is based in Namibia where she continues to research and focus on new scientific developments related to cheetahs.
How She Inspires Us: Dr. Marker’s work with cheetahs and their unique genetic makeup has made her an extraordinary advocate for these rare and beautiful creatures. She tells us that CCF’s mission is “to be the internationally recognized center of excellence in the conservation of cheetahs and their ecosystems. We work with all stakeholders to develop best practices in research, education and land use to benefit all species, including people. Our goal is to see a world in which cheetahs live and flourish in coexistence with people, within a sustainable system that is protective of the environment, socially responsible and economically viable.” Her relentless research and field work are an excellent model for animal conservation and education in African countries and around the world.
Related: Just Back From…Namibia
What She Does: Named Latin America’s best female chef, Danish-born Kamilla Seidler teamed up with Danish chef Claus Meyer, whose Copenhagen restaurant Noma was named the best in the world, to open Gustu restaurant in La Paz, Bolivia. After Claus Meyer founded the Melting Pot Foundation in 2011 in Denmark, Kamilla joined the team shortly thereafter to expand the foundation’s efforts to Bolivia. Now, the foundation has 14 schools in South America and a community center in Brooklyn. Today, Kamilla is back in Copenhagen working at the just-reopened Noma.
How She Inspires Us: Seidler and Meyer started the Melting Pot Foundation to “fight poverty through deliciousness,” which now has educated more than 2,000 students. Kamilla explains that their mission was based upon the belief that “the world can be changed through food, and by introducing gastronomy in developing countries, we could help to enhance local pride and tourism, improve the lives of farmers and expand educational opportunities for low-income families.” The foundation has spawned innovative new restaurants in La Paz like Ona and Ali Pacha, but also a culinary social movement in other cities including New York. In the summer of 2017, the Melting Pot Foundation opened a community center in Brownsville, Brooklyn with a culinary training program and an eatery that provides healthy meals to Brownsville residents.