Celebrating Women Protecting Wildlife

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.

Based in Colombia, Proyecto Tití is committed to the preservation of the cotton-top tamarin, one of the most endangered primates in the world, while also empowering local communities. One of Proyecto Tití’s initiatives is supporting the work of female artisan cooperatives who live close to the cotton-top tamarin’s habitat. These artists create cotton-top plush toys and recycle plastic bags by crocheting them into traditional tote bags called “eco-mochilas,” earning a steady income while removing thousands of single-use plastic bags from the local waste stream. Rosamira Guillen, Proyecto Tití’s Executive Director, leads the organization’s mission of educating local communities about the cotton-top tamarin and providing them with opportunities to not only protect this precious animal but boost their own economy at the same time.

Rosamira Guillen, Executive Director of Proyecto Tití, with local female artisans

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, women from the Guna Yala indigenous province in northeast Panama have adapted their traditional hand-made weaving of textiles, which provides a valuable source of income for local families, into creating gorgeous, one-of-a-kind face masks. With leadership from Dr. Rachel Graham, Ana Batista, and Megan Chevis, MarAlliance’s Panama team protects sharks, rays, and critical marine habitat through research, collaborations with local fishers, and sharing knowledge with decision-makers and the public to protect the marine habitat. Protecting this habitat also helps sustain livelihoods of coastal communities, including in the Guna Yala, who rely on the natural resources of this precious ecosystem for their well-being.

These MarAlliance masks depict the marine species that they protect.

Another amazing group of women who are pivoting to meet the needs of our ever-changing times are those from the Grevy’s Zebra Trust (GZT). Led by Executive Director Belinda Low Mackey and Program Manager Sheila Funnell, GZT is the sole organization in the world fully dedicated to saving the Grevy’s zebra and protecting their habitats in the community rangelands of Kenya and Ethiopia. GZT’s valuable work is done in collaboration with local communities that share land with Grevy’s zebras, including through the facilitation of important initiatives like the Nkirreten Project.

Belinda Low Mackey, Co-founder and Executive Director of Grevy’s Zebra Trust

Members of the Nkirreten Project are local women who improve the quality of life for girls and women by providing sexual education, contraception advice, and distributing reusable sanitary pads. The members, who also monitor Grevy’s zebras and promote conservation of the animal, are empowered by earning incoming through this project that they otherwise might not have had. When COVID-19 hit, they quickly shifted to producing and distributing protective face masks to support the health and well-being of their community. As Belinda Low Mackey told The Guardian in May 2020 about the Nkirreten Project’s newest product: “There’s a huge demand because there aren’t enough face masks in Kenya generally, even for health professionals,” she said. “It’s a real gap that we’re serving.”

The women of GZT’s Nkirreten Project produced and distributed face masks during the pandemic.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of incredible efforts led by dedicated women that are advancing the causes of 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!

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