Women Leading Conservation

Meet Rebecca Kochulem and Rufo Halakhe, Conservation International Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellows who are working to advance women’s leadership in conservation in Northern Kenya.

Women around the world, and particularly indigenous women, are closely connected to their natural environment. In Africa, for example, women produce nearly 90% of food on the continent and can spend up to five hours a day collecting water and firewood. Likewise, in major fish-producing countries, nearly half of all women are engaged in the small-scale fisheries sector. And worldwide, women rely on gathering forest products for supplemental household food and materials for income generation.

Despite this close connection and associated ecological knowledge, women are too often left out of decision-making about, and management of, environmental resources that impact them – at the local, national and international scales. This is especially true of indigenous women who face a number of barriers including social norms, time constraints, educational levels, racial discrimination, and high rates of poverty.

While there are certainly examples of strong indigenous female leadership in climate resilience, there remains an overall large gap in participation and decision-making at all levels. This can lead to inequitable policies and initiatives at the local, national and international levels and can inhibit the success of climate and conservation efforts and continue to disadvantage indigenous women. Emerging women leaders need the financial and technical resources, relevant mentoring and learning opportunities, and exposure to leadership opportunities, to make their contributions heard.

"Where I come from there’s a saying, ‘hati worra hutuba mana.’ It means that the woman is the main anchor in the homestead. But I don't think that a woman’s strength, her support, or her leadership, should be limited to [a homestead]. You know, if she can manage her household, I think she can manage her society, or her community at large. Women should be given equal opportunity in terms of leadership in their communities.” Rufo Halakhe
Samburu women at Westgate Conservancy. Photos by: Katie Bryden
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