An initiative of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), the Innovation Station amplifies women and girls developing creative, translatable solutions to climate-related challenges in their communities. In addition to a virtual event series, podcast, and newsletter, the initiative boasts a growing network of women and girls implementing their solutions and sharing best practices around the world.
Like many countries around the world, the impacts of climate change on Greece are diverse, initiating a domino effect of challenges for communities. The Greece wildfires of 2021, for instance, necessitated the evacuation of thousands of people as houses, farmland, and forests fell victim to the massive blazes. In late summer 2022, flash floods inundated homes and storefronts while washing away vehicles in the city of Thessaloniki. Challenges like these—which are becoming equally common in locations ranging from California to Algiers—demand creative, locally applicable solutions to facilitate community adaptation and mitigation.
Building community resilience in any part of the world requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, which means that the experiences and ideas of women, girls, and marginalized communities cannot be left out of solution-building. In the Greek context, this is especially important because women and girls lead many of the country’s nonprofit and social entrepreneurship endeavors related to climate change and the environment. That’s why, as the leader of the Innovation Station initiative, I traveled to Greece in September to advance conversations about empowering women and girls as climate leaders and to build relationships that will facilitate this goal on the ground.
The Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) provided an exciting venue for promoting women as climate leaders, particularly at the fourth Inclusivity Lounge, a discussion session hosted by Women On Top and supported by U.S. Embassy Athens. At TIF 2022, the Inclusivity Lounge focused on the intersection of gender and sustainability by considering, among other things, women and girls’ roles in tackling climate and environmental challenges. During the session, I was privileged to join a fireside chat with Consul General Elizabeth Lee to discuss priorities related to the gender-climate nexus and spotlight relevant U.S. government initiatives, including the Innovation Station.
Before departing Thessaloniki, the U.S. Consulate and I met with several organizations and officials to better understand barriers to women and girls’ empowerment in the climate and environment context. We learned about women’s underrepresentation in the Greek energy sector—a challenge being tackled by the WEnCoop Energy Cooperative and Greek Association of Women Entrepreneurs —and the scourge of gender-based violence that affects women’s participation even beyond the climate sphere. At the Thessaloniki Tech Lab , supported by the U.S. Embassy, we discussed the need to raise awareness in students about the concept of sustainability and how it intersects with locally important topics, such as water quality.
In Athens, the U.S. Embassy and I met with various women-led and women-supporting organizations acting on climate change and environmental degradation. We learned how organizations like New Agriculture New Generation are facilitating women’s cooperatives in agriculture and cottage industries and training women scientists to preserve genetic diversity in bees and mastic trees. A Woman Can Be and Enaleia are fighting to protect the environment by delivering climate education (on hiking excursions!) and combatting sources of marine plastic pollution, respectively. We spoke to HIGGS, an incubator and accelerator for nonprofit organizations and social enterprises, about how to finance, train, and mentor women and girl leaders in the context of Greek climate and environmental challenges.
Throughout our meetings, it was important to understand the needs of organizations in their efforts to support women, girls, and marginalized communities as they, in turn, pursue climate activism and leadership in the green and blue economies. In other words, what best practices are they looking to learn? How can relationships better facilitate their important work? Upon returning to Washington, I cross-referenced these needs with the experiences and expertise of our Innovation Station network of women and girls, ultimately making nearly 50 new connections for Greek organizations with domestic and international members of the network. Conversations that come out of this relationship-building help advance opportunities for women and girls in climate-related spaces ranging from agriculture and fishing to forest management and heritage preservation—climate diplomacy in action.
Thank you for having me, Greece!
About the Author: Aubrey R. Paris, Ph.D., is a contracted Gender, Climate & Innovation Policy Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI), where she leads the Innovation Station initiative. Dr. Paris received her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Materials Science from Princeton University and B.S. in Chemistry and Biology from Ursinus College.