Why gender matters in conservation roles

In October 2015, TBA organised a first of its kind training course which brought together conservation professionals from seven African countries. Commonly referred to as INTRINSIC (Integrating Rights and Social Issues in Conservation), the course provided crucial training on how to work with local communities for  conservation and the feedback from participants was very positive. One such participant was Claudine Tuyishime who works with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Rwanda Program to implement a project in Nyungwe forest.  The project is supplementing law enforcement efforts to reduce threats to Nyungwe National Park. Through educational outreach and working with communities, the project aims to curb illegal activities and build a more sustainable appreciation for the region’s biodiversity. This, however, is not without its challenges as the region is inhabited by a large and diverse community with very little awareness of the importance of protecting their ecosystem, or lacking the proper training to do so.

“By participating in the INTRINSIC course, TBA has built my capacity especially when it comes to my daily work with communities. In particular, I learned about the role of gender in conservation; that both men and women should be considered when planning and implementing conservation projects, and that we should monitor how both genders are impacted – positively or negatively by the projects we initiate.

In my case, after the training I had a chance to get a grant from USAID to extend my program with communities. I used to work with 20 schools but now this has been extended to 35 schools. When selecting the teachers to coach environmental clubs I recruited one female and one male per school, as I learned both male and female are able and may bring different expertise.

A female conservation volunteer talking about her plans in educating the community about conservation

Working with communities requires considering all categories from society, as they may have different influences and powers that can help in project development and implementation. In my program I work with community conservation volunteers, and when I recruit I now collaborate with local leaders and aim to make sure that both genders are represented. We recently selected Yambabariye Christine, a woman from the Batwa community, a historically marginalized group around Nyungwe area. She is proud of being selected to be a community conservation volunteer for Nyungwe.

Located in southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe forest is a majestic rainforest, key to the region’s biodiversity as it serves as a habitat for most of the countries endemic primate species as well as being a birders paradise. The survival of this rich ecosystem is however under many threats mainly caused by the large human population around the forest. These threats include poor agricultural practices by the local farmers, human encroachment, poaching among others.  The program is therefore plays a vital role in creating awareness for the community on the importance of con-serving the area.

Yambabariye told me: I am  very happy to become a community conservation volunteer, I have been selected by community as they already trust me; being a leader in a church , I am familiar with speaking in public, leading people and now I will be including conservation messages in my public speech. People will trust my messages as I am already trusted in our group. I will encourage the Historically Marginalized people to stop poaching because it becomes for me a responsibility. Our group has been known as illegal forest users, but I am ready to change their mind by educating them and they trust me as I am also a representative of them in my village.

Most of the times women are not given the chance to speak in meetings. However, after my TBA training, I started making sure that women are represented in all the conservation projects I am leading. I also make sure women are given opportunities to speak in the meetings I conduct, as they have good stories to tell that are relevant. As a female TBA trainee myself, I am very proud of engaging women in conservation initiatives around Nyungwe.

Thank you TBA for increasing my capacity, you are really helping to build my career.”

Claudine Tuyishime – INTRINSIC participant

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