Embracing Gender Equity in Conservation

Former Gender Specialist
African People & Wildlife
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Women receive training on community survey techniques led by Yamat Lengai.
Emily Paul/African People & Wildlife

Embracing gender equity means increasing crucial connections with communities, improving outcomes that reach beyond just the environment.

Prisca Urio, Gender Specialist

Empowering women and girls isn’t as easy as inviting them to the table (or desk). It’s crucial that we understand their challenges and fears to offer help that makes a true difference.

Over the last year, our team has applied our data-driven approach and community engagement expertise to move forward with the African Women in Conservation Initiative on multiple fronts: formalizing a mentorship program, strengthening beekeeper business acumen, researching systemic problems in the wildlife sector, and sitting down with girls and teachers.

We ask, we listen, we learn, we act.

In celebration of International Women’s Day today, I’m excited to share the incredible progress and plans we’ve made at African People & Wildlife. Embracing gender equity means increasing crucial connections with communities, improving outcomes that reach beyond just the environment. We are well underway.

APW's Janeth Edward checks wildlife camera traps near Noloholo.
Emily Paul/African People & Wildlife

New Research: Women in Wildlife Careers

At the invitation of the Tanzanian government, we commissioned new research in 2022 on women's participation in leadership positions in Tanzania’s wildlife sector. Data collection is now complete, and a forthcoming report will share the findings and recommendations for increasing women's representation in natural resource decision-making and leadership.

While we are not surprised to learn that few women hold leadership positions in Tanzania’s conservation sector, the preliminary analysis shows that men are more likely to believe the barriers to women’s inclusion are personal traits culturally ascribed to women, such as lack of commitment or low-self esteem.

Additionally, there is a high level of awareness among people working in the conservation sector that family responsibilities and cultural norms pose significant barriers to women being offered and accepting leadership positions. For instance, an assumption that leaders should be men results in resistance or lack of cooperation with female leaders.

As we look for ways to make an impact with the African Women in Conservation Initiative, it’s clear that our activities must go beyond empowering women by targeting men with additional focus on:

  • Breaking down barriers to gender balance
  • Changing attitudes around women’s roles
  • Recognizing societal and systemic threats to gender equity.
Meet Susan, Aana, Lauraclara and Agness, our first cohort of African Women in Conservation mentees.

Meet the Mentees at Noloholo

Last week, four women arrived at the Noloholo Environmental Center for a three-month mentorship and coaching program! They will gain hands-on experience in all of our program areas, develop essential skills for career success, and receive ongoing support through a network of women conservationists and partner organizations.

Among them is Susan Chege, who received a 2022 scholarship from APW for being the top female student in the Community-Based Conservation course at The College of African Wildlife Management, Mweka.

Susan Chege Reuben
"I have a strong desire to attract more women into conservation by mentoring them and understanding communities living with wildlife. Moreover, I am interested in acquiring more insights and sharing knowledge concerning wildlife and environmental sustainability. Joining APW will be my gateway to achieving my dreams."

Anna Justin
"Wildlife has been my passion, with lions being the best part. In my former roles as a trainee, I was involved directly with the community and wildlife. I am excited to continue learning about conservation, our cultures, human-wildlife conflict events, the coexistence of pastoralists and wildlife, honey harvesting, and more."

Lauraclara Munuo
"Through this opportunity, I hope to learn more about the challenges facing conservation in Tanzania and gain hands-on experience working to protect wildlife and their habitats. I also hope to use my photography skills to tell the stories of the people and wildlife of Tanzania and inspire others to join the conservation movement."

Agness Osward Ngao
"I applied for this program because I'm eager to learn more about conservation. I would like to further my knowledge and upgrade the basic skills from my conservation career and develop myself as a professional. I see myself as a strong voice raising against the communities which deprive young women to engage in conservation."

Girls make a presentation at a youth environmental camp at Noloholo.
Emily Paul/African People & Wildlife

Girls Clubs Come Into Focus

We recently completed a baseline survey to identify the needs and challenges faced by girls at home and school, and we're now using the data to develop a learning curriculum for Girls Clubs in 10 schools this year!

Our focus isn't solely on developing environmentally-minded leaders but also on supporting girls throughout their journey to adulthood. For example, there is pressure for girls to leave school or fail exams and marry so that their families receive dowries of livestock, which hold great value in Maasai culture. Others are unable to attend school due to a lack of feminine hygiene products.

By creating spaces for girls to learn about health and leadership – in addition to conservation education in all-gender wildlife clubs – we hope to open up the pipeline for girls to pursue higher education and scholarships and serve as environmental stewards in their communities.

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Emily snaps a self-portrait during her time based out of the Noloholo Environmental Center.
Emily Paul/African People & Wildlife

Sharing Women’s Stories with Emily Paul

The sights and sounds of conservation aren't easy to document, especially with buzzing bees, unpredictable wildlife, and travel to remote places. Starting last fall, in partnership with Ngoteya Wild, photographer and videographer Emily Paul embedded with the APW team to capture our work and the people who make our programs possible. With both an eye and joy for storytelling, she's recorded the experiences of girls and women with passion and respect.

According to Emily, "I think women need to hear more success stories of themselves so they can be inspired. Working with a group of women from diverse cultures has taught me that every woman has a story to tell – and they are all brilliant."

She recently spent time with the Women’s Beekeeping Initiative as members completed their goal to hang 250 new hives. Take a look and hear the voices of Mama Asali!

Join the Movement for Gender Equality

Support women and girls on their paths to becoming environmental and community leaders by giving to the African Women in Conservation Initiative! Donate today.

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Beekeeper Sinyati Topio Laizer paints identification on a new hive
Emily Paul/African People & Wildlife