Every early spring at the United Nations Headquarters, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) draws thousands of women from across the globe to share their ideas, issues, and solutions on topics ranging from education to economic development and sustainability. Comparing similarities and differences in women’s issues from diverse regions of the world is always a dynamic process, and the vibrant city of New York is a backdrop well suited to it. And yet, during the CSW, the city’s sidewalks around the UN become even more alive and vibrant as women of all ages and backgrounds, many in bright traditional wear, head from one event to another with a determination to change the world for the better.
This year on March 17, Peace Boat US, in partnership with C4: Capital For New Commons and the International Grassroots Women Academy, sponsored a CSW parallel event called “Entrepreneurial & Financial Innovation Leadership to Achieve the UN SDGs” that brought together a panel of diverse young women who are working in different ways to fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Around the world, the role of women and girls is transforming the workforce demographic not only as founders and leaders, but also as highly valued customers. This parallel event featured some of the best practices and partnerships required to create sustainable economic development for women – particularly within marginalized communities in certain parts of the world–including developed nations. By featuring some of the most innovative partnership solutions in business, finance, and community organizing, it aimed to accelerate the knowledge transfer among CSW participants from around the world and increase involvement of women in helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Panelists at the event included:
Megumi Ishimoto, Founder, Grassroots Academy Tohoku (GAT)
Melanie Lavelle, CEO & Founder of Benefit Kitchen
Alexandra Iosso, CEO & Co-founder of Dagmy Motors
Tinia Pina, Founder & CEO of Re-Nuble
Rachel Clark, Peace Boat US
Junko Nagao (Moderator), Executive Director of C4.
Megumi Ishimoto has been very active in serving women living in the Tohoku region in Japan, where the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami affected and changed many people’s lives. Her organization exemplifies economic development and women’s job creation by empowering the community through projects that bridge older and younger generations. “GAT seeks to develop the next generation of women leaders in the region,” said Megumi, showing beautiful handmade bags and purses crafted from recycled kimonos. Japan’s traditional kimonos are upcycled by Tohoku women, giving them an opportunity for financial independence. For more details, visit this link.
Melanie Lavelle’s work of more than 15 years focuses on inclusive finance by helping families move out of poverty. Her organization, Benefit Kitchen is an award winning mobile platform that connects working Americans with over $80 billion in unclaimed benefits such as Food Stamps, tax credits and health insurance. Benefit Kitchen’s app won the Grand Prize in Civic Engagement at Big Apps NYC in December 2015 and demoed at the New York Tech Meetup in January 2016. She also has conducted over 700 local, state and national training sessions on topics related to poverty, economic self-sufficiency, and work-support access.
As a presenter on leading sustainability in engineering, energy and motor industries, Alexandra Iosso spoke about her experiences with the company Dagmy Motors, which she co-founded. Dagmy Motors designs, manufactures, and sells high performance proprietary battery packs with multiple use cases including energy storage and generation and inclusion in electric vehicles. Alexandra oversees all corporate relationships, strategic partnerships, product strategy implementation, and overall day-to-day operations. Being a native French speaker and fluent in Tagalog, together with a wide range of international experiences, Alexandra’s speaking skill was so inspiring that her topic, which is traditionally regarded as men’s realm, roused great interest from the audience of all women.
Tinia Pina’s company Re-Nuble demonstrates great partnerships to launch, develop soil and hydroponic nutrients, and technologies to turn food waste streams into bio-based materials for indoor growing systems. Her company shows a strong commitment to addressing climate change. “At our company, we’re aware that climate change, if left unchecked, will have major effects on the communities in which we operate, our business, and the economy at large. That’s why we’re joining more than 620 companies and investors across the United States to encourage the incoming administration and new Congress to stick with the commitments we’ve made in the Paris Climate Agreement. Failure to transition toward a low-carbon US economy now will only exacerbate the climate-related problems we’ll experience in the future. But maintaining U.S. climate leadership can spur innovation, advance our nation’s competitiveness, and position U.S. companies as leaders in the global economy,” said Tinia. Her additional statements on climate change can be found here.
Rachel Clark is an interpreter and global coordinator, as well as a volunteer staff member at Peace Boat US, an NGO that promotes peace, sustainable development, human rights and respect for the environment through educational programs organized onboard Peace Boat. Rachel talked about promoting peace and empowering communities, especially women in communities, and highlighted the sustained relationship between Peace Boat and the Kuna indigenous people in Panama that has been fortified through a program called “Sailing 4 Social Innovation”. She also explained Peace Boat’s collaboration with the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN) in the Philippines, a program that supports Filipina migrants through the sales of their beautiful handmade crafts and clothing with traditional textile and design, and that generates awareness of the rights and concerns of the migrant women. Rachel also spoke about Peace Boat’s groundbreaking Ecoship Project, which is creating the world’s greenest cruise ship with ecologically friendly features such as 10 retractable solar-paneled sails and retractable wind generators, as well as a future-ready hybrid engine. Together with its projected cuts of CO2 emissions and impressive energy efficiency, Peace Boat’s Ecoship will be a flagship for green technology in passenger shipping, serving as a model for cruise operators worldwide. The ship’s maiden voyage in 2020 was announced at COP21 Paris in 2015.
After each panelist spoke, moderator Junko Nagano encouraged panelists and participants at the venue to form a big circle and hold a Q&A session in workshop style. Among the participants, photographer Fiona Aboud passionately suggested that she could connect her friends with the entrepreneurial panelists Filmmaker Donna Tsufura was also among the participants. Donna has been very active in the NGO community and the Japanese American community in New York City. She also showed strong interest in connecting the panelists to her friends and affiliates. Peace Boat’s Ecoship drew many people’s attention. Speaking from her expertise on futuristic technology on vehicles, Alexandra suggested that the Ecoship concept would be greatly appreciated by commuter vessels between Manhattan and surrounding regions.
Sponsoring and participating in UN events is one of Peace Boat’s activities as an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations, and we look forward to continuing to highlight the leadership and work of women in achieving the SDGs.
This article was published by Rachel Clark