Skip to main content

International Women's Day

In a world where we are faced with numerous environmental crises that are putting immense pressure on our communities, achieving gender equality is more vital than ever.

Ensuring women’s and girls’ rights across all aspects of life is the only way to secure prosperous and just economies, and a healthy planet for future generations.

This International Women’s Day, we spoke with five delegates and negotiators from the Montreal Protocol and asked them who were their female role models that positively influenced their careers and which feminist change-maker’s they admire and why.

Sandrine BERNARD, Senior Adviser, Climate Department, Section for Climate Science and Air Quality, Norwegian Environment Agency, Norway

My mother initiated me to learning at an early age, giving me a significant advantage in life.

Later, I also had the chance to work with several women who have been supportive and inspired me; demonstrating how much you can achieve when you have a strong engagement and substantial knowledge.

In particular, I am deeply grateful to the female managers who have opened doors throughout my career. They have offered me opportunities to broaden my knowledge and perspectives, take on new responsibilities and improve my skills.

Despite the achievements made towards gender equality, women continue to face barriers. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for yourself, as a woman, and for what you want to achieve. I admire those who persist in face of adversity and frustration.

Moreover, I believe that solid dialogue skills and a creative mindset are really what it takes to succeed in getting people moving in a common direction for achieving progress. Several women have distinguished themselves by playing a key role, exercising such abilities, and contributed to accelerating progress. We need to keep on empowering women, especially young ones, encouraging them to pursue their interests and developing their strengths for them to become inspiring change-makers of tomorrow.

Dulamsuren DASHDORJ, Senior Officer, National Ozone Authority, Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Mongolia

I grew up in the country of blue sky and the vast steppes of Mongolia; a landscape that many around the world can only imagine. I was raised in a conventional family brought up by my mother and sisters, in remote countryside due to my father’s occupation.

This environment might seem different and exotic to many modern children more used to a narrow urban family circle. The benefits of being brought up in the countryside and the strong family bonds, my mother and sisters, who are my role models, have been evident in my life. They taught me to be persistent, honest and hardworking.

As the youngest daughter of six children in a family with Asian traditions and customs where the male child is more preferred and respected, my mother was a relentless advocate for my education and opened the door to many opportunities.

Thanks for her trust and support, I am now working on international environment protection projects for over two decades. My mother taught me that I should do my work with all my heart, a positive attitude and empathy for others.

Growing up with three elder sisters and two elder brothers, I witnessed first-hand the dynamics of gender roles and balance. My second sister in particular played an important role in shaping my perspective towards life and myself.

During 1990s, Mongolia underwent a difficult transition with high unemployment and economic hardship making people learn to adapt to new realities. In those days and challenging environment, my “role model” was not on a TV or a social media personality but a real person in my life - my sister, who I consider a change-maker. She, also in spite of challenges, obtained a university degree, while having her own family, was by my side at the right moments and guided me. My sister once said, "Do not ask anyone for support or help, believe in yourself, and build your own life!'' I consider myself very lucky to have such resilient and strong women around me.

Jana MAŠÍČKOVÁ, National Focal Point, Air Protection Department, Ministry of the Environment, Czech Republic 

Everyone´s life is formed and influenced by the people around them and the people they meet. I think that I am lucky because at every stage of my life I've met women who have contributed to my career path.

My mum gave me the most important basis – a colourful childhood full of possibilities, freedom, but also responsibility for my own decisions, great support and love above all. At grammar school I had an excellent Professor, who managed to arouse the interest of many students with her enthusiastic approach.

Thanks to her, I chose my field of study at university focusing on natural sciences and nature protection. And finally, since the beginning of my professional career, I have a great female colleague with whom I cooperate on international aspects of Montreal Protocol related issues. She’s the inspiration of many projects.

All of them are very inspirational ladies. They are enthusiastic about the things they are doing, ready to overcome barriers where it matters and leave them where it does not make sense. They are very hardworking and educated and at the same time they are very human and friendly, with a sense of humour.

At the same time, I was very lucky to meet very inspirational men as well.

Most of all, I admire courage. The courage to step out of line and fight for a cause without clear knowledge what it will all entail or whether it will achieve any result at all. The courage to step out of a certain personal comfort zone and blaze a trail for others. Also, I admire the inner strength to not give up on such efforts.

It´s true that even in daily life, if we want to achieve something we can’t be lazy but purposeful and determined. Such characteristics are our engines to move things forward regardless of their range. These crucial features are relevant to any process of progress and innovation.

We have a nice Czech proverb saying, “There are no cakes without work” and I think that in the beginning you have to have the courage to bake your own first cake. By the way, I love making them, thanks, Grandma.

Bruna VERÍSSIMO, Second Secretary, Climate Negotiation Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brazil

Having lived in a family with a strong feminine presence, I have learned to look at other women hoping to find inspiration rather than competition.

Of all the women who have crossed my path in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, three are always on my mind. The first is Minister Bárbara Bélkior, currently posted in the Brazilian Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations Office in Geneva. She was the one who first talked to me about diplomacy and encouraged me to take the exams. Had it not been for her, I would not be here writing to you.

The second one is Renata Fasano, who is now working at the Brazilian Embassy in London. She is the best diplomat I have ever met. The way she solves problems and combines efficiency and strategic thought is an example that, yes, the workplace is our space and we should own it.

Last but not least, Brazil’s first woman to become Secretary-General (equivalent to Vice-Minister) of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Maria Laura da Rocha. I have had the honour to work at her cabinet and I remember entering my room every day thinking “Look how far she went!”

Like many women Ambassadors, she had been a forerunner in many positions and now she has reached the highest rank a career diplomat can aspire to. To watch her work and manage our foreign policy issues with such confidence and accuracy is an experience I will never forget.

The most prominent female leaders I know are the ones who do not try to “work like a man” in an attempt to be someone different. Instead, they are authentic. Their leadership captures their way of reasoning, making decisions and guiding others. There is also something special about those women who are aware of the gender gap but are willing to do their work, fight for what they believe and help other women along the way. When I think of Bárbara, Renata, and Ambassador Maria Laura, they have that in common. I try to develop those skills in my work at the Ministry.

Siana Whatarau, Coordinator, Environmental Partnerships Department, Cook Islands

As a young woman just starting out my career in the small Pacific Islands state of the Cook Islands, it can be difficult to find female influences in environmental management or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

In fact, I’d have to honestly say that most of my career influences have been by men. In my case, a lack of female influences in my life is what has driven me to pursue my career as a young female environmentalist.

As my career has developed, I have been fortunate to meet some inspiring female colleagues along the way. I’d like to acknowledge my fellow Cook Island’s National Ozone Officer, Ms. Mii-Tuatini Herman, who demonstrates excellent work ethic while bringing a light-hearted nature to any space she enters.

Ms. Herman has carried out work under the Montreal Protocol here in the Cook Islands since 2018 and has always shared opportunities to develop others, like me, and propel them forward. I am able to do the work that I do because of selfless, humble and hardworking women like her.

Selflessness, humility and resilience are qualities that I admire in all women. These are the qualities that I personally believe make women great mothers, considerate leaders and influential change-makers. I can think of no one else who better embodies these strengths than Ms. Valery Wichman of the Cook Islands, who has recently been awarded the prestigious German-Franco prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

Ms. Wichman is the first Pacific recipient of this award, and she has been a prominent figure in the work to decriminalize homosexuality in the Cook Islands, achieved in 2023. I have had the honour of working with Ms. Wichman only once in my career but ever since this encounter, I have admired her willingness to serve her community, her grace, her ability to uphold her cultural values throughout her work and her resilience to be an agent for change despite the challenges that come with it.

Ms. Wichman has inspired me to continuously work to apply the same virtues in my own life. As a young woman, I look forward to the challenge of becoming part of this growing line of influential women and change-makers.