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Throwback Thursday: 2009 Goldman Prize Winner Olga Speranskaya

April 3, 2014

Russian scientist Olga Speranskaya was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2009 for her work to transform the NGO community in the Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asian (EECCA) region into a potent, participatory force working to identify and eliminate the Soviet legacy of toxic chemicals in the environment. She formed a civil society network that now includes NGO groups, government bodies and academia in 11 former Soviet states.

Together in equal partnerships with NGOs all over the region, Speranskaya has dedicated her career to phasing out toxic chemicals and reducing harmful exposures to human health and the environment. Her leadership and the collective efforts of thousands of people are helping to turn around a legacy of pollution with impunity to one of proper care and attention.

In the five years since winning the Prize, Speranskaya’s work to eradicate address toxic waste has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2010, she was nominated and unanimously elected to a co-chair position with IPEN, a global network working to establish and implement safe chemical policies. With IPEN, Speranskaya has worked on several emerging issues, including electronic waste, asbestos pollution, mercury contamination, POPs and more.

Fellow 2009 Goldman Prize recipient Yuyun Ismawati also works with IPEN as a steering committee member. Ismawati is one of the world’s leading advocates raising awareness about the global crisis.

“I am sure the Goldman Prize significantly helped me to be elected [to IPEN], as people believed that I proved myself and they saw that I can fully use my potential to reach our aims,” Speranskaya reflected on how winning the Goldman Prize impacted her and her work.

“I started to better understand the role of today’s environmental leaders- who are required to do more than ever before. They need to display skills and competencies built around major environmental challenges. The Goldman Prize helped me become more aware of myself and my strengths. It added a lot to my self-confidence as an environmental advocate and as a leader who can make serious and complex decisions…

Governments and industries often oppose environmental advocates. They accuse them of being international agents, prosecute them, and even physically abuse them. Pressure and hatred from officials and industry are an everyday reality for many campaigners and advocacy groups.

That is why the Goldman Prize is not only a recognition of people’s efforts to save the planet, it also provides significant protection and encouragement at the international level for many of those who face injustice in their own countries.

Being a part of the Goldman Prize team is a great honor for me and a terrific opportunity to be among people whom I highly respect for what they have achieved. I never imagined that my work would be so recognized.”

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