I quit my job to take care of my mental health and it was the best decision I have ever made
Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan has always loved the sea. That’s why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that working in the sea was not enough. She had to protect it.
“I see the ocean ecosystem collapse due to overfishing and climate change,” she says. “I felt powerless and didn’t know what to do [so] I have decided to do my master’s in environmental management. “
This decision led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back to the Leuser ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia – one of the last places on earth where species like tigers, orangutans, elephants still exist and Sumatran rhinos live the wild today. It is also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.
“When I first flew over the Leuser ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation that extends through hills and valleys. The Leuser is really a majestic landscape – unique. “
She fell in love. “I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser ecosystem,” she recalls. “When the baby orangutan swung from the branches, apparently playing and having fun, the mother watched us.
Courtesy Farwiza Farhan
“Over the years,” she continues, “encounters with wild animals, with humans and with the ecosystem itself have increased. My curiosity and my interest in nature have developed into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity.”
So she started working for a government agency charged with protecting it. After the agency was dissolved for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to set up the HAkA foundation.
“The goals [of HAkA] should protect, maintain and restore the Leuser ecosystem and at the same time catalyze and enable fair economic prosperity for the region, “she says.
“Wild areas and wild places are rare these days,” she continues. “We think that gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable goods, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser ecosystems, are the kind of natural goods that are essentially life-sustaining services.”
“The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It may sound extreme, but tell me – can anyone live without water? “
Courtesy Farwiza Farhan
So far, the HAkA has done a lot to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that hold palm oil companies that burn forests accountable. In fact, their involvement resulted in an unprecedented, first-ever court ruling of its kind that fined a company nearly $ 26 million.
In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged the critical habitat of the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They are working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that do not harm forests. They have also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to oversee deforestation and helped set up the first female ranger teams in the area.
“We have helped several villages create local regulations to protect rivers and land, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership of their environment.”
She is one of Tory Burch’s Empowered Women this year. The donation that she receives as a nominee goes to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.
“The funds will help the organization keep its rangers employed so they can continue to protect the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats,” she says.
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy’s Empowered Women program, visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate them today!