Every day, women all over the globe exemplify the leadership, collaborative spirit, and dedication needed to make the world a better place by ensuring the health and well-being of wildlife and humankind. This International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the countless contributions of women in every field of work, we wanted to showcase the extraordinary work of some of WCN’s amazing female-led conservation Partners around the world.
Dr. Gladys Kalema- Zikusoka, the Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), was recently named one of six finalists for the 2023 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation, for her work protecting the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda. Gladys also just published a new memoir, Walking With Gorillas:The Journey of an African Wildlife Vet, which has rave reviews from another famous female conservationist: “I recommend this book to everyone interested in conservation, alleviating poverty, and the role of women in society. But perhaps most importantly it is a truly inspiring story of how one determined and dedicated woman overcame many setbacks and faced many dangers to follow and realize her dream.”— Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, one of the most renowned conservationists in the world.
Based in Costa Rica, Macaw Recovery Network (MRN) is committed to the preservation of the Critically Endangered great green macaw, while also empowering women that live around macaw habitat. MRN’s Women Rangers Program in Boca Tapada, Costa Rica is an all-female run program, founded in 2020 by MRN’s Community Outreach Manager, Pamela Herrera Barquero, to help restore the tropical rainforest that great green macaws inhabit. The Women Rangers Program has already planted thousands of native tree species, coordinating seed collection, plant nursery care, land surveys, and outreach and education programs.
Women are also steering the ship to protect wildlife out at sea. In Malaysia, MareCet’s majority female-led team is sustaining our collective future by conserving the ocean of the present, through increased understanding and appreciation for marine mammals. MareCet’s Founder, Dr. Louisa Ponnampalam, has assembled a team of PhD-powered seafarers that includes fellow Malaysian marine biologists Vivian Kuit, Sandra Teoh, and Saliza Bono. Seas away in the Caribbean, MarAlliance’s team, founded by Dr. Rachel Graham, is led by a strong cohort of female Country Coordinators, Kirah Forman-Castillo in Belize, Malena Sarlo in Panama, and Ivy Baremore in Belize. MarAlliance explores, enables, and inspires conservation action for threatened sharks, rays, and other marine wildlife and their critical habitats with dependent communities.
While we all strive to protect the diversity of life in our environment, it is important that we don’t overlook a diversity of leadership in the conservation sector. All of these women are modeling a more effective and impactful way to enact conservation, creating strong mixed gender teams that will achieve greater environmental outcomes. WE Africa (Women for the Environment) is an organization dedicated to this mission as well. WE Africa is putting women at the heart of transforming Africa’s environment movement. A few WCN Partners—both Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka and Dr. Colleen Begg—serve on the leadership council of WE Africa. In 2022, Grevy’s Zebra Trust’s Co-founder and Executive Director, Belinda Low Mackey, participated as a fellow in the program and shared her thoughts that remind us of the importance of women leadership in conservation: “If we expect behavioral change, we must cultivate an environment where everyone feels heard. I want to contribute towards an inclusive and just future for women and our planet.”
These are just a few examples of the incredible efforts led by dedicated women that are advancing conservation and successful human coexistence with wildlife throughout the world. Women are powerful leaders and forces of change in making the world a better place for all of us. Happy International Women’s Day!