Building Women’s Leadership Skills for a Sustainable Future

On Earth Day, we celebrate women leaders like GWLN 2008 graduate Olanike Olugboji who is the Executive Director of the Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment (WISE) in Nigeria. Today, Nigeria is facing multiple challenges, from the abduction of over two hundred schoolgirls a year ago to a recent change in government due to the Presidential elections.

Despite these precarious conditions, Olanike is leading women in Nigeria to foster environmental sustainability among rural communities. She is teaching women how to promote sustainability - women who are at the frontline of resource management and environmental stewardship. Through their traditional roles of preparing food, carrying water, laundering clothes and caring for children, women have a keen sense of how precious the Earth’s resources are and how important it is to use those resources sustainably.

Inspired By The Lives of Rural Women

After Olanike earned her university degrees in Urban and Regional Planning in Nigeria, she led projects related to resource management and became inspired by the lives of rural women and the issues they face.

“Restricted access to resources and information, and limited power in decision-making - make women most vulnerable to environmental problems. Drought, deforestation, erosion and flood cause women to work harder to secure natural resources. Women therefore have less time to earn income, get an education or provide care to families.”

Olanike founded WISE in 2008 to create a support network for women to become agents of change rather than passive victims of environmental challenges, She and her staff advance sustainable practices by empowering people, especially grassroots women and girls, to become environmental stewards, community leaders and peace builders. WISE now collaborates with public and private institutions from local to global arenas.

GWLN’s program enhanced my self-awareness and encouraged me to develop effective leadership behaviors aligned with my vision of empowering women.
— Olanike Olugboji, Executive Director, Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment


As a participant of the Women Leaders for the World class in 2008, Olanike’s experience helped her develop a better sense of self-awareness and she returned to Nigeria with a much greater ability to transfer leadership skills to women in her network. She also found a renewed focus on enabling women to take on the role of leaders for sustainability, rather than acting merely as participants.

Through her work, Olanike has impacted over 1,000 women in rural communities, teaching them to utilize novel technologies to improve access to water and sanitation standards in their villages. “I am driven by a sense of equity and justice, and believe that a safe and just world for everyone is achievable”, says Olanike.

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