Shanaaz Nel

Response Campaigner, Greenpeace Africa

When a Japanese whaling ship was forced to divert away from South Africa instead of docking here to refuel, earlier this year, Greenpeace was the organisation responsible.

A social media campaign that was picked up by the mainstream press, and roused the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, made sure the trawler carrying 2 000 tonnes of whale meat was not welcome, says Shanaaz Nel, a response campaigner with Greenpeace Africa.

Nel joined Greenpeace in 2013 and focuses on climate and energy issues. “Greenpeace is the only organisation that is out there and puts its activities before the brand,” she says.

“Often in the development sector we get stuck in the process of thinking about a problem rather than getting out there and doing things. It’s a really exciting organisation with a lot of innovative thought leaders.”

As a child Nel wanted to be a journalist to tell the stories of people who were unable to tell their own. But her plans changed, and with Greenpeace she can be part of the story rather than a mere observer.

She previously worked with Action Aid International, which champions human rights. “That shaped my views on how I see the world and I met amazing people – especially women and girls – from around the world.”

Her role at Greenpeace is to encourage people to take immediate action to combat climate change. “We can successfully mitigate the worst impacts if we apply successful, sustainable and alternative solutions to our lives while meeting people’s basic needs,” she says.

Many people see Greenpeace as a rather dramatic organisation, but Nel likes the drama because it actually makes things happen. “It shows people that someone is willing to stand up and do something and that ordinary people can do something. Greenpeace is an organisation that bears witness and people appreciate that because I think the courage of the activists is something we all wish we had. The world is changing and we need a lot more people to be brave and courageous. We can’t have a few people taking this stance, we have to do it together.” — Lesley Stones