Women’s empowerment, a game changer in conservation

By Calvin Manika for Community Podium News

Lorraine Mpande, from Msuna village in Hwange district, north-east Zimbabwe, has battled many temptations that could have disrupted the ecosystem and threatened wildlife, but says the knowledge she gained from awareness campaigns of several conservation organizations helped her to contain herself.

“In my forays into the bush looking for firewood, I sometimes find bird eggs in the trees or dry trunks that have become a home for other animals and I have to take care of them. We have been trained to nurture the ecosystem and not destroy animal habitats, so we refrain from harming them. Basically, for firewood we look for trees that have fallen on their own as we strive to avoid deforestation,” said Mpande.

“Involving women in conservation, a resistance against the unsustainable destruction of natural resources, not only has the potential to empower them but also positively change their future,” said Onita Sibanda, a feminist from Hwange.

Women in Zimbabwe rely heavily on ecological goods and services. However, recent years have shown that women can be vulnerable to manipulation due to a lack of awareness.

Zimbabwean women are often involved in wildlife trafficking, smuggling ivory and other wildlife products across borders.

The last week of June marked Women Ranger Week, a celebration of the bravery and dedication of women in green and brown uniforms fighting the scourge of poaching. From the female-majority Black Mamba anti-poaching group in South Africa, to the all-female Akashinga anti-poaching group in Zimbabwe, and the Virunga women’s ranger unit, African women are showing the world that protecting natural resources provides opportunities to get ahead. social and economic neglect.

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“Educating women and giving them tools for action will lead to lasting improvements in the well-being of the world. Empowering women in wildlife conservation can be a game changer as they become true advocates and advocates for the well-being of nature,” said Sibanda.

Community Podium’s interaction with the Msuna community established that enhancing women’s empowerment and promoting gender equality could trigger transformative impact in wildlife conservation, as well as innovation and efficiency in forestry, mitigation climate change and water management.

Esnath Ncube, a Msuna villager, a member of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) and a volunteer for various organizations working in Msuna village on wildlife conservation, said that people need more education about wildlife conservation. wildlife, especially women, who spend a lot of time interacting with the natural environment and its products.

“As women, we interact daily with the environment and we need more education in wildlife conservation. Some organizations we work with provide us with relevant knowledge, especially about protecting forests, wild animals and our water. The education we receive makes us law-abiding citizens even in the management of our Kapenta business. We have permits. Wildlife laws are key for women,” said Ncube.

Another villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that from the village level to the central government, steps must be taken to increase women’s representation in decision-making roles related to biodiversity and environmental governance.

The food security of women and children is often affected by wildlife management measures that do not effectively address human-wildlife conflict.

According to Fiesta Warinwa of the African Wildlife Foundation, “African women are the natural guardians of the environment. They pay the price when it comes to the social and economic effects of factors associated with the environment and conservation.”

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Organizations such as the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) recognize the importance of incorporating gender equality into their programs and policies.

“In response to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, AWF seeks to promote a more inclusive approach to promoting equality across the continent,” read an AWF statement.

Another wildlife conservation organization, Wildchain, also values ​​female empowerment as a tool for wildlife conservation. For years, the organization has supported organizations that work closely with African women in agriculture and wildlife conservation.

The enormous potential of women to contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development has yet to be fully realized. Gender advocates point out that biodiversity loss places a disproportionate burden on women and girls by increasing the time it takes to obtain necessary resources such as water, firewood and medicinal plants, reducing the time they spend income-generating activities and education.

There are women like eco-activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who led the fight against deforestation in Kenya and inspired thousands more like her to plant more trees.

Despite widespread skepticism about including women in decision-making, gender advocates say the Zimbabwean government and its international and domestic partners are increasingly recognizing and advocating for greater attention to gender issues.

This article is reproduced here as part of the African Conservation Journalism Program, funded in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe by USAID’s VukaNow: Activity. Implemented by the international conservation organization Space for Giants, it aims to broaden the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in Africa, and bring more African voices into the international conservation debate.

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