Holly Elissa is an ecofeminist creative, social entrepreneur, mountaineer, and NGO founder.
Elissa has worked for the past fourteen years for the rights of animals and women and children who are refugees/displaced people and victims of trafficking – namely child soldiers, rape and sex slavery survivors – as the founder of Caleb’s Hope and more recently United Commons and Femmes Mondiales. Her original education being in theatre and film, Elissa returned to school and obtained a law degree in 2020 to better serve under her NGO. She completed an LLM in 2021. Her legal scholarship focuses on an ecofeminist analysis of historical hegemonic patriachy and it's relationship to animal law, environmental law, and international human rights - specifically the rights of women and children.
Elissa is motivated to tell stories that explore cross-cultural understanding and human rights through innovative yet accessible narrative and documentary films as well as mixed media and video essays. Her work in Africa and the Middle East contributes to her point of view, specifically the danger of the single-story narrative.
MOUNTAINEERING AND TREKKING
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Her NGO work focuses on international law and how it relates to human rights, specifically women and children, environmental law and animal law. After her own ‘white saviour’ blunders, she is a reformed aid worker and contributor to challenging colonial narratives and tired aid models in African nations as an advocate for responsible foreign investment, social enterprise, and humanitarian aid.
As the founder of Caleb’s Hope, Elissa worked with refugee women and children in Atiak region of Northern Uganda – widows, former child soldiers, sex slaves, PLWHA, and child headed households. With the ongoing assistance of local leaders and experts, they developed the Atiak Women’s Business Group; a women’s social enterprise group focused on sustainable economic independence and child welfare and education. AWBG currently focuses on farming as their sustainable industry of choice with many having dreams to expand their farming productions while others use funds to complete school or plan to use profits as start-up capital for other business endeavors.
Unfortunately the deeply flawed and oppressive colonial structure of most foreign aid in Africa has systematically led to an inevitable unhealthy co-dependency between western charities and their developing nation recipients, despite the best of intentions. Because of this reality, Caleb’s Hope could no longer, in good conscience, continue programs in Atiak. All programs were completed, fulfilling the NGOs promise in Atiak in 2014.
"If we within the aid and humanitarian industry don't talk about where we're failing, how can we improve? Rooted in this eurocentric (and patriarchal) ideology, the system is broken and always has been. Too many western charities cling to their idea of 'right'. Too many participate in a victim-saviour relationship with people on the ground. And too many pretend you can build healthy, independent economies from charity. You can't help if you're not willing to listen and not willing to admit where we have failed and where we have harmed with our 'good intentions.' It would behove everyone to have a little more humility; with mouths shut and ears open. Academic credentials and lengthy resumes don't make anyone infallible nor all-knowing. There is no room for arrogance, fragile egos or pity. It's time to decolonise the system." - Holly Elissa
Femmes Mondiales est une ONG écoféministe pour le défense des droits humains pour les femmes. Nous abordons la violence masculine envers les femmes par les services de santé mentale, l’économie verte et la justice pour les victimes.
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Move Together Project emerged in 2018 with a meditation and dog-assisted therapy pilot program in Vancouver, Canada to address the urgent mental health needs of vulnerable children. The MTP, now apart of United Commons, focuses on assisting children and their families through SEL models of learning and family honouring. Learn more about Move Together here.
Like many autistic women and girls, Holly feels more at home in nature. She is a lover of high-altitude mountain expeditions and trekking and derives inspiration from mountaineers such as Ed Viesturs and Arlene Blum.