Women for conservation

Namibia's Women for Conservation. Photo: Dr Joni Saeger
Namibia's Women for Conservation. Photo: Dr Joni Saeger

NACSO advocates for gender equality and encourages women to take up roles in conservation initiatives. In 2019, a “Women for conservation” movement was initiated by a group of women from Ehirovipuka, Omatendeka, Orupapa, and Ongongo conservancies to support and encourage women to get involved in conservation and be part of decision making.

As we celebrated International Women’s Day, we also appreciate women in conservation in Namibia and beyond our borders. With this year’s theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” we continue to celebrate the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain. This is also highlighted by Lisa Arlbrandt from WWF Sweden in her blog, as adopted from her study on Gender mainstreaming in Namibia and Madagascar which investigated women's participation in nature conservation projects.

Some things that have emerged are that gender equality is good for nature conservation, when both women and men participate joint ownership is created and the projects can give better results. 

The studies show the importance of asking the same questions to different groups to get below the surface and get more perspectives. "Why aren't women park rangers?" asked the consultant. "They do not want to," several men replied. "We cannot," several women replied. Happily, more work is now being done to remove practical obstacles and influence attitudes so that women can be included in the guard work. It gives women a new opportunity for good work and income and it has a positive impact on an extremely male-dominated profession that is characterized by violent male ideals. 

WWF is now working further with the recommendations from the studies to really access attitudes and change in depth. The important thing is education. Women are trained in leadership and in daring to speak up in groups. Men and traditional leaders are trained in gender equality and are included to a greater extent in development work.

In Namibia, there is the Women for Conservation group, which was started this year. The participating women represent different villages and nature conservation committees, and the purpose is that together they have a stronger voice in nature conservation work.

 In Madagascar, women's groups have begun planting mangrove forests, which have previously been a male occupation. This has led to major improvements in the results of the mangrove restoration and has been well received by men as well. "Double the hands make the work lighter," says one of the interviewed men. The women express pride and say that they enjoy greater respect in society at large now that they participate in nature conservation work.

Even though it is a dark year for gender equality, the pandemic also creates opportunities. It shows that humanity can change and when old systems and structures fall, we get a new chance to build something new and better.

Victoria Amon
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