Diane Mariechilda speaks volumes when she tells us “A woman is a full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” This truth is visible everyday as African women tap into their immense power and make great strides in the world of conservation.
These women have heard Mother Nature’s cry for help and are becoming the leading catalysts of change. And as the future of our ecosystem hangs in the balance, women are rising to meet these global challenges through collaboration, compassion, and courage. They are teaching people to reconcile with nature and protect it from mankind.
While many of us have made it our mission to create awareness for conservation, these women are the ones on the front line, championing the sustainability and conservation initiatives that we love. From the Black Mamba majority-female anti-poaching group in South Africa, the Akashinga all-female anti-poaching group in Zimbabwe, to the female rangers in Virunga, Africa’s women are showing the world that protecting our natural resources provides opportunities to rise from social and financial oppression. And despite the many barriers they face in their work, they continue to transform how we empower communities, organize natural resources, manage conflicts between humans and wildlife, and educate the next generation of custodians.
They are coming together and forming a collective voice for sustainability and conservation. Through connection, recognition, media, and mentorship, these women share knowledge, build communities, and create an impact. In an article by the African Wildlife Foundation, it is stated that:
- African women are the natural custodians of the environment.
- They pay the price when it comes to the social and economic effects of factors associated with environment and conservation
- Women are more directly affected by the degradation of the environment.
- Many of the livelihoods of African women rely upon the stability of the environment around them and its decline has impacted women disproportionately to men.
The women in conservation empower communities to care for nature, save species, and protect important habitats.They have gone above and beyond to save threatened and endangered species, whether it be through the implementation of conservation activities and research, formulation of conservation strategies, or their participation in fieldwork.
This national women’s month we honor the women who are advancing conservation efforts and strengthening Africa’s sustainability—each day.
Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green belt movement, an Eco-activist and the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, led the fight against deforestation in Kenya, and continues posthumously to inspire many others to plant more trees, cultivate democratic spaces and sustainable livelihoods.
Ugandan born, Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka, the founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health, star of BBC documentary Gladys the African Vet and Uganda’s first wildlife veterinary officer is another individual who has been asking difficult questions and forging the path ahead for women in conservation.
Dr. Paula Kahumbu
“It’s time to stop being polite. Poaching is a war being waged against Africa. Why aren’t our leaders taking action?” said Dr. Paula Kahumbu. A Kenyan born ecologist who has become one of the most influential figures working in conservation today and is at the forefront of the protection of elephants against poaching.
Catherine Constantinides, an international climate, environmental and human rights activist, social entrepreneur, and accomplished change-maker, is a passionate humanitarian, who works throughout Africa and across the world championing human rights and social justice issues with a passion for youth and women empowerment.
Co-founder of the global youth network Generation Earth, her passion is the fight to stop climate change, leaving a legacy for a low-carbon, sustainable future. In an interview with CNBC Africa, Constantinides said, “Through the work I do, the most important thing for me is to leave a world where we don’t have to worry about climate change, sustainability, and low-carbon cities.”
Alice Ruhweza is the is an accomplished voice in conservation. She has recently been appointed as a Commissioner to work alongside prominent leaders for the newly formed Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification.
Previously she was with UNDP. She says she is trying to break down silos and put data at the center of decision making about food and the environment. “We need to invest time in really understanding the incentives that will drive this shift to a more integrated approach, and what kind of data is needed to engender this shift,” she says. She’s also incredibly passionate about addressing the intersection of human capital (girls education in particular) and natural capital (natural resources, environment, conservation).
It is strong women like these, who are providing a platform for the next generation of female conservationists; overcoming stereotypical roles of women in conservation, and redefining how the world treats both women and the environment.