I just returned from a photo-op session with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. They posed with and rode on two bamboo bikes made by young women in Ghana. The bamboo bikes represent women's leadership in an effort to tackle climate change.
We so typically see the formal face of these global leaders in media, but in informal settings, they show a lighter side. Both were relaxed and engaged. Ms. Figueres was especially endearing today as she even hopped on the back of bamboo bike and allowed herself to be transported around the lobby area.
It is a refreshing aside here at the UN climate conference in Warsaw to recognize real-world actions to address climate change. As self-interest negotiators haggle behind closed doors over greenhouse emission reduction targets and financing -- as they have done rather unsuccessfully for two decades -- civil society is taking action on its own. The bamboo bikes are one of a number of projects singled out for Lighthouse Activity Awards. The Lighthouse Activities focus on three areas; Women for Results, Urban Poor, and Financing for Friendly Investment.
The Bamboo Bikes Initiative was recognized for providing a non-polluting, affordable form of transportation as well as creating employment opportunities for women. Young women with little or no education are trained to manufacture and assemble the bikes.
But, this Initiative is more than just bikes. The women are also instructed on how to use bamboo waste to manufacture charcoal briquettes to address energy needs.
Ban also posed on a sofa with Bamboo Bikes Initiative Program Officer Evelyn Ohenewaa Gyasi. I asked Evelyn about the sofa because there was no information provided. She explained to me that the sofas are made out of used plastic bottles. She said, "This did not win an award but it is also part of our initiative."
It is inspiring to see how innovation and determination at the local level can be harnessed to address poverty, gender equity, climate change, and sustainability.