We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Global Ties U.S. IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change: Mehwish Abbasi of Pakistan and Adrian Lasimbang of Malaysia, both leaders who are empowering marginalized communities to create equitable and inclusive strategies to address climate change.
Mehwish Abbasi is a journalist and freelance writer who covers topics such as women’s rights, education, and the environment. In 2014, she participated in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project on “Conflict Sensitive Reporting,” and visited four cities to learn about the media’s role in providing reliable information in times of strife. Her IVLP was programmed by Meridian International Center (Washington, DC), in partnership with WorldOregon (Portland, OR), Boulder Council for International Visitors (Boulder, CO), and WorldDenver (Denver, CO).
According to Mehwish, her IVLP experience helped build up her confidence as a public speaker and strengthen her vision to advance social justice and community-led solutions to climate change and development. “It enhanced my personality in every perspective,” she said. “It also helped me connect with different people from different fields, and those contacts later helped me start my project and campaign on climate action.”
Since returning from her IVLP, Mehwish has become a leading voice in Pakistan for human rights in connection with climate change. She served as the Youth Group Director for the Pak-USA Alumni Network, where she organized activities on girls’ education, tree planting, global warming, faith and harmony, and human rights, among others, and her writing has been published in national newspapers.
She has also organized awareness sessions surrounding climate issues in her hometown, Bandhi, and become a mentor to young girls from her local province to teach them about climate change, social justice, and equality. Mehwish built a platform, “Climate Action – Let Girls Learn and Educate Equally to Protect Our Planet,” to ensure that youth voices are heard and made part of solutions to climate issues. She also helped launch the EcoJustice Project, a digital platform to promote global climate justice and cross-sectorial climate action, and amplify the voices of marginalized communities. “Our goal is to make climate education a right, so students understand what’s going on, and our biggest challenge is to enter a better future,” she said.
Adrian Lasimbang is a social and environmental activist with more than 20 years of experience in conservation and developing community-led renewable energy solutions. He is the founder of TONIBUNG, a social enterprise that promotes capacity-building training and renewable energy technology for rural communities, a former member of the Malaysian Senate, and an alumni of the 2010 IVLP, “NGOs and Civic Activism.” His IVLP was programmed by the Institute of International Education (IIE), in partnership with WorldOregon, GlobalAustin, Utah Council on Citizen Diplomacy, Santa Fe Council on International Relations, and Global Ties Miami.
Adrian credits his IVLP for helping to advance his work. In Portland, OR, Adrian learned about renewable energy, community-based project management, and how nonprofit organizations in the United States are financed, citing how “It enabled me to restart the financial sustainability of my organization by engaging other work such as consultancy and looking at corporate financing.” In New Mexico, he saw how indigenous communities, specifically the Pueblo Indians, create and manage their own energy systems, noting that: “The kind of model they showed gave me some idea of what other basic framework to have in a community-based energy system in my own community projects in Malaysia.”
After his return from his IVLP, Adrian helped to spearhead and design community-led micro-hydro systems in remote indigenous villages in the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah. This community-led model allows for indigenous communities, especially in remote regions, to own, manage, and operate their own energy systems. “By providing this energy access, this can help address the issue of poverty which is very serious among indigenous communities,” Adrian said.
The utilization of community-led micro-hydro systems also encourages forest conservation. By protecting the watershed, which is important for the micro-hydro system, the community is incentivized to protect the forest and its native biodiversity. In turn, this ensures that important resources such as rattan, herbs, and other native plants, are not only protected, but that Indigenous communities are able to collect and process those resources as a source of revenue. Throughout this entire process, the community is directly involved in the mitigation of climate change.
For their commitment to social justice, community engagement, and climate activism, we are honored to present Mehwish Abbasi and Adrian Lasimbang with the IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change at the Global Ties U.S. 2022 National Meeting.
WATCH THEIR REMARKS
ABOUT THE AWARD
The Global Ties U.S. IVLP Decade of Social Innovation and Change Award recognizes alumni of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program for high achievements driving social change through innovation in their home communities. Thanks to the contributions of Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, an IVLP alumnus and Honorary President of Via-Circulo Jefferson in Spain, the award is generously granted annually at the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting.