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Gardening During Her Early Years Planted Wawa Gatheru’s Passion For Launching A Climate Organization Empowering Black Women To Become Leaders


Wawa Gatheru is striving to make the world a better place.


As previously reported by AFROTECH™, the Connecticut native and Rhodes Scholar founded Black Girl Environmentalist (BGE), an organization creating a more equitable space in the climate sector by empowering “Black girls, women, and non-binary people across environmental disciplines.”

Her focus on the environment was born while gardening with her mom and grandmother during her early years, and she learned “the ethic of reciprocity and care for the planet,” her website mentions. It would not be until high school that Gatheru would identify as an “environmentalist.” At 15, she took an environmental science course that framed it as a justice issue, revealing to her the lack of intersectionality in the field, and she recognized the field’s intersectionality gap.

In higher learning, Gatheru further engaged in the climate space by pursuing environmental science and policy at the University of Connecticut (UConn), per her website. This followed after spending one year as a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Scholar of the U.S. Department of State in Buriram, Thailand. At the college, she cited food insecurity as being a climate issue, which led to her helping start the UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE).

Gatheru also conducted a survey on food insecurity across the campus, and her research was referenced for the establishment of a state and federal policy.

Her contributions have even extended into leadership of Connecticut’s first Youth Climate Lobby Day, while she advocated for an environmental literacy general education requirement at UConn, the first for a public U.S. university. Her advocacy was successful, and the course was introduced in 2019. For her leadership and dedication to environmental scholarship, Gatheru became the first individual to become a Rhodes Scholar within the Connecticut public university school system.

Making A Difference

After leaving UConn, Gatheru’s work in the climate space strengthened through Black Girl Environmentalist. She is challenging the status quo by empowering diverse groups to pursue leadership roles in climate improvement efforts, including community building, green workforce development, and narrative change.

In conversation with AFROTECH™, she doubled down on the impact work of the organization stating, “What we’re doing with Black Girl Environmentalist is to create space for Black girls, Black women, and Black non-binary environmentalists, and spaces that speak to our unique environmental expertise and leadership that don’t exist in the wider audience. So, with BGE — we’ve done in-person and virtually — one of the most important feedbacks that we’ve gotten is that people are being able to experience joy and optimism in the climate space.”

She added: “I think in our organizing spaces, especially in the climate space, we have to be creating conditions that look like the world we’re trying to love into existence. And with BGE, when we get to convene in person, I think we get glimpses and the ability to taste a better world, a world that centers Black women and Black fems in environmentalism.”

Black Girl Environmentalist has collaborated with 55 corporate and nonprofit partners and has hosted 38 events in 10 HUB cities, its website mentions.

AFROTECH™ Future 50

For these reasons, Gatheru is being honored as a Changemaker on our 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 list, which amplifies Black professionals making strides in the tech industry. Gatheru’s efforts, specifically, demonstrate her significant social impact.

To view the full AFROTECH™ Future 50 list, click here.

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