Pakistani Climate Defender Ayisha Siddiqa Among Time Magazine’s Women of the Year
- As a research fellow for the Climate Litigation Accelerator project at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, the 24-year-old is pushing to integrate the rights of humans and nature alike into climate law.
Pakistani human rights and climate defender Ayisha Siddiqa is among this year’s Women of the Year, an annual list of “extraordinary leaders who are working toward a more equal world by building bridges across generations, communities, and borders.” The 24-year-old is joined by actress Cate Blanchett, musician Phoebe Bridgers, actress Angela Bassett, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and Iranian dissident and journalist Masih Alinejad.
Currently, a research fellow for the Climate Litigation Accelerator project at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Siddiqa is helping to create a system of support that breaks down silos between intergovernmental leaders and local activists, as well as pushing to integrate the rights of humans and nature alike into climate law,” Time said in the profile. In 2020, she co-founded Polluters Out, a global youth activist coalition, and helped launch the Fossil Free University, an activism training course.
She uses poetry to put her message across. It “represents hope — a way to bring humanity back into the staid, high-level conversations that increasingly occupy her time,” Times noted in her profile. At the annual U.N. Climate Conference in Egypt in November, she shared an original poem “as an unvarnished rebuke of leaders’ failure to act on climate change,” the magazine said.
When floods devastated her country last year, she changed her feeling into poetry as a form of protest. “It’s an effort to preserve what I have left, while I still have the time, in written form,” she told Time. “Art makes life worth living, and in my opinion, it’s what makes humans worth the fight. Like all of the things that we leave behind, all the creations, wouldn’t it be so unfortunate if there’s nobody on the other side to witness and observe them?”
She told the magazine that “growing up in a matriarchal, tribal community in eastern Pakistan helped shape her outlook. She said “the realities and values” she has seen, “motivate her to use her voice to uplift the vulnerable and hold polluters to account. Siddiqa said she “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. And I think we, collectively, have come to a point where we are ignoring the cries of the earth mother.”