Mahfuza Mala - Sustainability oriented gender activist

Mahfuza is a dedicated individual who has been working as a gender activist for more than a decade apart from her regular job, which is being an environmentalist and a researcher.

We’ve had an insightful conversation with Mahfuza in which she shared her story of becoming an activist who not only pays attention to feminism but also to the environment.

She has paid much interest in the environmental issues as soon as she realized the issue in Bangladesh, her home country. Mahfuza has noticed that many people in Bangladesh are suffering a lot from a variety of disasters. She wanted to learn about the reasons causing these setbacks as well as look into the possible actions that could be done to improve the situation. During the process of getting engaged in the journey fighting for a better and more resourceful environment for residents, Mahfuza found out that it is the large CO2 footprint that is the main cause of the current issues.

Mahfuza started her journey in 2014 with disaster action programs and realized that the authorities, (national and international), are not taking responsibility for the environment as they promised to. As a result, Mahfuza decided not to depend only on the government or anyone to better the situation because of her belief in everyone being able to make changes no matter how hard it can get. Especially, global leaders, who inspire environmental actions and educate people about the need for strong commitment and actions, should be actively involved in the fight, otherwise, the programs are not going to work.

Sustainability can only be reached if…

"We are consumers who prefer having a fancy lifestyle, we purchase new clothes every day and month, which keeps our carbon footprint rising dramatically. So it is very important to be a consumer who makes practical actions and builds sustainability."

Mahfuza would define sustainability as longevity combined with accessibility towards the environment or any development intervention. Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Well-being should also be considered while supporting the long-term development of accessibility of products with the least harm to the environment. The production process should be continued, ensuring the quantity without lowering the quality of products. Besides, sustainability should include the involvement of consumers, the community regarding decision-making, participation in planning, leaving no one behind, especially when the community of people involving in food production is diverse in social class, having different backgrounds and holding the different amounts of assets.

Mahfuza believes that building sustainability should include ensuring the participation of making and using resources. We should leave no one behind, for example, in many programs that encourage farmers to be responsible in their production, we should always include all types of farmers (men and women; large-scaled and small-scaled). Because people have different techniques, diversity in the program will give many methods and innovative ideas.

Less meat consumption habits could change the world

When being asked about her thoughts on eating less meat, Mahfuza shared that producing meat releases a lot of carbon dioxide. If we can change our eating habits reduce our dependence on meat, for example, having a vegan diet may act as an effective solution to reduce carbon footprint. Moreover, this eating habit could also help with water sources. Since water scarcity is a serious problem throughout many countries, it is reasonable to say that it is quite a luxury to use a lot of water to satisfy our thirst for meat.

As a meat lover, it might be difficult for her to stop eating meat, but she would be willing to start with consuming meat only once or twice a month. As for the laboratory meat, it is quite a new term to Mahfuza. Therefore, she would be concerned about the ingredient used in making the meat before trying. However, she believes that these types of meat need to be safe, environment friendly and full of nutrition.

Sustainable approach in companies – do they mean it?

A lot of companies have claimed that they are pursuing a sustainability approach in operation and production. In Mahfuza point of view, she agreed that there are a lot of organizations utilizing the concept but at the same time acknowledging that applying sustainable approaches in their business is a time-consuming process. There could be a possibility that some organizations may say so to make their appearance more impressive and capture their target customer sector. As fancy as it sounds, we cannot know how many of those organizations means it and how much sustainability they do apply to their code of conduct. For this reason, Mahfuza chose to wait and see how they will prove their saying.

Our team in The Lab was inspired very much by Mahfuza’s mindset and her actions towards sustainability. As more and more people are sharing the same mindset as Mahfuza’s, we believe that the world can be changed, the situation can be improved in the near future.

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