Asia's Most Influential: Christine Amour-Levar, Co-founder of Women on a Mission and Founder of Her Planet Earth
Christine Amour-Levar is successful, dynamic and loquacious; the very archetype of a woman on a mission intent on using her unique set of skills and gifts for the good of the planet and its people. And that’s exactly what Christine Amour-Levar named the first non-profit organisation she co-founded eight years ago with fellow adventurers and philanthropists Valérie Boffy and Karine Moge: Women on a Mission (WOAM).
“We had this desire to organise expeditions as a way to raise awareness and funds for vulnerable women; survivors of war, domestic abuse and human trafficking,” notes Amour-Levar.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and persistent human rights violation in our world today.
WOAM then partners other NGOs, such as UN Women, Women for Women International and Aware Singapore, that already have established structures in place and run dedicated programmes aligned with its mission.
The by-invitation expeditions help create buzz for the cause, taking groups of women to remote locations such as Bhutan, Mongolia, Rwanda and even Siberia.
“We’ll pick a unique location where we have the opportunity to also meet indigenous native populations, as we’re always searching for an enriching, cultural aspect so that we can learn about the women’s issues there. Then, we look for a challenge; ideally a pioneering challenge something that has never been done before by a group of women or even by anyone,” she explains.
The self-funded trips, which average two weeks in length, are often physically gruelling and participants may be exposed to extreme weather conditions, which makes prior training de rigueur for the team.
For a rock climbing trip once, WOAM even engaged famed mountaineer Khoo Swee Chiow to train the women. And, sometimes, the expeditions involve world’s firsts.
“In Bhutan, we were the first to do stand-up paddle boarding down the rivers with the equipment we brought from the UK. And nobody had ever biked across the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, because it’s crazy, I mean it’s the hottest place in the world. So we look for these unique life-altering experiences,” says the sporty French-Swiss-Filipina who grew up between Manila, Paris and Tokyo, and speaks six languages including Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese.
For their part, each participant spearheads their own fundraising efforts, working towards a team target via online fundraising platform JustGiving.
“These women are between 22 and 60, and of all nationalities, backgrounds, races, education and careers—from CEOs and artists and stay-at-home mums,” shares Amour-Levar, herself a mum of four and former corporate high-flyer.
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As a successful career woman who has spent over a decade as a marketing professional in the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia, female empowerment is a theme close to Amour-Levar’s heart, which she also champions through another non-profit she founded: Her Planet Earth, a global women’s advocacy movement for gender equality and environmental conservation that has so far raised about half a million dollars.
“Climate change is one of our greatest challenges facing humanity today. In Asia, women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, so climate-related emergencies like flooding and cyclones can destroy their livelihood. So we are working with UN Women to help fund agricultural projects that equip them to switch to more resilient and marketable crops,” she explains.
Expeditions under Her Planet Earth, therefore, differ from WOAM’s in that they call awareness to geographic regions most impacted by climate change, such as Greenland and Antarctica, with a second trip to the latter being planned for 2022.
“If you look at the statistics, the melting of the ice sheets in Greenland, for instance, will greatly impact coastal cities in Asia, including Singapore, and we will be affected by rising sea levels,” she cautions.
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Amour-Levar’s passion for conservation is palpable, and she has just been appointed an ambassador for the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation in the Philippines to conserve, protect and restore the natural environment including the coral reefs of Palawan through environmentally sustainable practices.
With the pandemic putting a damper on travel and fundraising efforts, however, Amour-Levar and her team of volunteers have refocused their efforts on their mentoring programmes in Singapore this year. WOAM runs a 'Big Sister' programme with the Pertapis Centre for Women & Girls, while We Can Be Heroes, also founded by Amour-Levar, pairs people with mental health issues and disabilities with volunteer support.
She’s already done so much, but it sounds like Amour-Levar is only just getting started.
- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
- Styling Joey Tan
- Hair Kenneth Ong
- Make-Up Bobbie Ng
- Photographer's Assistant Eric Tan