Drum roll, please. One of our very own has made it to TIME Magazine’s Women of the Year 2023 list. Congratulations, Ayisha Siddiqa!
TIME’s annual list was released on March 2 and it “examines the most uplifting form of influence by spotlighting leaders who are using their voices to fight for a more equal world”. The 12 women they chose come from different parts of the world and range from fields like sports and politics to activism and arts.
This year, besides the Pakistani climate change activist, the list included Australian actor Cate Blanchett, American actor Angela Bassett, Somalian professional boxer Ramla Ali, American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, Minister of Racial Equality of Brazil Anielle Franco, Ukrainian women’s and LGBT rights activist Olena Shevchenko, Mexican human rights activist Verónica Cruz Sánchez, Iranian-American journalist, author and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, Japanese incoming CEO Makiko Ono and American writer Quinta Brunson.
Siddiqa is a 24-year-old human rights and climate defender who is a fan of poetry as a form of expression. For her, it represents hope. At the annual UN Climate Conference in Egypt in November, she shared an original poem titled So much about your sustainability, my people are dying to point out how the leaders have failed their nations.
Raised in a matriarchal household, some things became deeply entrenched in her consciousness, motivating her to help the vulnerable and hold polluters accountable. “I was raised with the idea that the earth is a living being, that she gives life to you and in return, you have a responsibility,” she told TIME. “And I think we, collectively, have come to a point where we are ignoring the cries of earth mother.”
According to the publication, in 2020, Siddiqa co-founded Polluters Out, a global youth activist coalition, and helped launch the Fossil Free University, an activism training course. Now, she’s working to help set up a youth climate justice fund to correct the imbalance of resources activists have compared to the fossil fuel industry.
Her work with the fund aims to better distribute money to grassroots activists around the world. And as a research fellow for the Climate Litigation Accelerator project at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, she’s helping to create a system of support that bridges the gap between leaders and local activists. The activist is also focused on including rights of humans and nature into climate law.
“This work is definitely intergenerational,” she says. “I am young now. Tomorrow, I won’t be. I absolutely love working with people younger than me to pass on this knowledge so that the chain never breaks.”