Today is International Women’s Day and a perfect time to highlight just a few women who have contributed to conservation including, Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, Wangari Maathai and Rachel Carson. These women have contributed so much to the world of conservation, but greener nations may start with women in the developing world.
Women are often disadvantaged in developing nations. Women constitute nearly two thirds of ‘contributing family workers’, who work in family businesses without any direct pay. Women account for approximately 70% of the population living in absolute poverty (on less than $1.00 a day).Women in developing nations often are dependent on agriculture as their single source of income. In agriculture, women are estimated to produce over 50 percent of all food production. It has been suggested by the World Economic Forum, that unequal control over household decision-making is estimated to create 13.4 million more undernourished children in South Asia and 1.7 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Children born in families with uneducated mothers are half as likely to go to school as those whose mothers have completed primary school As the effects of climate change become more prolific across the globe, women have been suggested to suffer the greatest. In a study by Eric Neumayer and Thomas Plümper (2007) it has been described how, given an environmental disaster should occur, men are likely to receive preferential treatment when it comes to rescue efforts and both women and girls suffer more from shortages of food and economic resources in the aftermath of disaster.
When the opportunity arises, women can make significant contributions to the conservation world. These acts do not have to be huge, but can make a difference to the community or even the country they live in. Beatrice Ahimbisibwe, began reforesting a one-hectare plot on her farm in Uganda in 2003 after signing up for Uganda-based EcoTrust’s “Trees for Global Benefits” carbon-credit program.
As a geography teacher, she was concerned about climate change and wanted to conserve Uganda’s forests. As a farmer, she wanted to invest in her land. Ahimbisibwe gets paid in increments over its 10-year life for planting and growing trees. After those 10 years, she can harvest her trees and sell them.
She has used some of her earnings to reinvest in her village by building a primary school. She participates in the village council, is a member of the local women’s group and village bank, and serves as a carbon consultant locally and internationally.
In India, Gunduribadi, a self-appointed women’s group spearheads the forest conservation movement. Their ‘Forest Protection Committee’ has helped in regenerating more than 500 acres of forest land and has made their village self-sufficient.
Women from all the 27 village households protect the forest from timber mafia and neighbouring villages.Started in 2000, the women of the village took over the charge of guarding forests after the male members failed to do so.
“Forests satisfy all our basic needs. So, we decided to protect in from outside elements. We start patrolling from 6 am and continue till evening. It is our forest, so we don’t seek anyone’s help to guard it,” says 65-year-old Ramaa Pradhan.
The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is a group led by young women from local communities. They patrol inside the Greater Kruger national park unarmed. They are the first all-female unit of its kind in the world that protect many species under threat from poaching such as rhinos.
Leitah Michabela has been working as a Black Mamba game guard for the last two years. “Lots of people said, how can you work in the bush when you are a lady? But I can do anything I want.”
Michabela and the other 26 Mambas are looked up to by the young women in her village as heroes, within the same communities the poachers come from. “I am a lady, I am going to have a baby. I want my baby to see a rhino, that’s why I am protecting it.”
While half the world’s population do not receive the rights or recognition that is deserving, we are missing out on the ideas, solutions and great work of millions of people.