There aren’t a lot of young women passionate about environmental sustainability and climate change. For Esther Agbarakwe, developmental consultant, social entrepreneur and Co-Founder, Social Good, that is her life’s work. She talks about why the world is going green, and why Nigeria should follow suit. She is the Leading Lady Africa for the week. Be inspired!
Thank you for speaking to us, can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Esther Agbarakwe, I am very passionate about making a difference
Give us a brief peek into your educational and professional background?
I studied Chemistry at the University of Calabar, Calabar and a Post-graduate programme on Sustainable Development at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
You began environmental advocacy from as young as age 9; what inspired you?
I began Child rights advocacy at age 9 because growing up in a disadvantaged community was hard enough. I continued this throughout secondary school, and up till when I was at the university.
I grew up in a community in Calabar, Cross River State, known then as Spring Road, named after the natural spring that was main source of water for everyone. My closeness to the vegetation and watching it get abandoned and destroyed by the people who were supposed to protect it was an inspiration. As I grew older, at the university, I realized that young people where not so involved in environmental conversations like climate change, and I was inspired to do something about it.
You are popularly known as ‘Esther Climate?’ how did this sobriquet come about?
Hahaha! The name Estherclimate was a campaign to raise awareness about climate change on social media, especially on Facebook. In 2009 when President GEJ announced first on Facebook that he was running for president, there were a lot of reactions online and I wanted to use that momentum to make people interested in climate change because so many people joined facebook that time to make their voices heard about GEJ’s announcement. I changed my name to ‘Esther Climate,’ and when online commentators and my friends saw the name, they asked why? I seized the opportunity to explain about the name change and what climate change really was and what we could all do about it. The name stuck and I am glad it did. Everywhere online, I remain Estherclimate.
Many Nigerians consider ‘climate change’ “global warming’ ‘biodiversity’ and the likes as “oyinbo” terms that don’t really affect them. Do you agree?
I don’t agree. Climate change is a global issue, affecting everyone and requiring everyone to take urgent action. The name and language may sound foreign, but the impact is felt everywhere in the world, including Nigeria
Where do you think Nigeria stands in the worldwide quest to go green, and what can be done to create more awareness on climate issues?
Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa and what every Nigerian does or doesn’t do affects the continent. Nigeria hasn’t invested much in green development. Awareness is on the increase as many NGOs have carried out awareness and education progammes but this isn’t enough because the Nigerian population is large. Many young people are also using social media to create more awareness and hold government accountable.
I am hopeful that this new government will do better in promoting and investing in green development
You seem very serious, bookish even, lol! How do you let your hair down and what do you do for fun?
I love watching movies and football it is relaxing. I love cooking for friends and I play table tennis.
What are some of the major milestones you’ve recorded since you’ve began environmental advocacy?
I carried out the first every youth survey on Climate change Perception among young people in the Niger Delta, supported by the BNRCCC Project and strengthening the Nigerian Youth Climate Movement.
If you were not a sustainability and environmental expert, what would you be doing?
I’d very likely be working in a chemical lab.
Name 3 women who inspire you?
My Mom, Glo Harlem Brundtland and Dr. Oby Ezekwesili.
Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in the next 10 years?
Personally, I see myself as a mom, and professionally as International Development consultant or technocrat
Where are your favourite travel destinations and why?
Nashville, London and Rio – because they are all amazing destinations with different cultural vibes and all what not.
If you could, what is the one thing you would change about the world?
I would love to see a world where there is no poverty, and where inequality doesn’t exist.
Your field of work is not one that is entirely common or regular, words of advice for young women toeing similar paths?
Follow your heart, it won’t lead you astray.
What is the greatest lesson life has taught you?
That friendship and family are the world’s greatest gifts.
Follow Esther on twitter @estherclimate
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa; an initiative that seeks to effectively mentor and inspire women, with particular emphasis on the African continent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.