The Aga Khan University is among the first universities and one of the first health care providers in the geographies in which it operates to have net zero carbon targets that are aligned with science. This work is led by Miriam Kugele, who brings her experience from the development sector, research, and climate action to advance AKU’s ambition.
“My interest towards climate change began when I took part in an environmental service project in high school,” she said. ““That interest has not waned, if anything it has grown. No days are the same. Science is improving every day and learning is a constant. And I get to engage horizontally with many diverse teams across the university.”
Miriam’s training is in geography, with a specialization in environmental policy for her master’s degree. To her, women who want to join this field can come from any background, with strategic thinking, ability to connect different topical matters, and willingness to learn as the most important.
At AKU, Miriam provides strategic direction and support for effective design and implementation of environment and sustainability initiatives. In late 2021, AKU began phasing out single use plastic water bottles on all campuses, and in February, the first solar power project was launched in Pakistan.
“Shaping behavioral or institutional changes is never easy. Also, sustainability is new area of work for the operations of the organization, so we are investing quite some efforts to build awareness for and engagement with all stakeholders. I truly believe that our planning process, given how cross-cutting the sustainability work for AKU is, must be bottom-up and based on meaningful participation.”
“I have been very lucky to have worked in diverse institutions around the globe, to influence policy, and to support institutional learning. Here at AKU, it is wonderful to shape transformative processes in an organization that takes its sustainability seriously and that has strong guidance from the Aga Khan Development Network.”
In celebration of International Women’s Day in 2022, Miriam wants to “recognize and celebrate that the women who have inspired and influenced me, who are brilliant holistic thinkers, an essential skill to work in the sustainability field.”
She adds: “Given the scale and complexity of the transformations required towards sustainability, ideas and action from all men and women alike are needed, and new collaborations across stakeholders must be forged.”