By Haja Isatu Bah (Media and Development Coordinator)
“The environment, after all, is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. It is one thing that all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, Primatologist.
As we conclude the celebrations of women’s history month, It is very important that we understand and acknowledge the vital role women play in protecting our environment and tackling climate change through paid and unpaid activities. We can draw inspiration from young environmentalists like Elizabeth Wathuthi from Kenya and Vanessa Nakate from Kenya and Uganda. At the age of 27, Elizabeth has planted around 30,000 tree seedlings in Kenya, and is the founder of the Green Generation Initiative, which educates young people about the environment. Vanessa, a 26-year-old Ugandan Climate activist, founded the Rise Up Climate Movement to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change, and amplify the voices of activists in Africa.
Similarly, we can look back towards Dr.Vandana Shiva and Professor Wangari Maathai who broke glass ceilings to protect the environment in the 1970s. Dr. Shiva started her ecological movement by working with the women of the Chipko Movement. The Chipko movement, which started in 1972, was a nonviolent movement by Indian women who clung to trees to stop the large-scale deforestation in the Himalayan region. Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to support rural Kenyan women who were affected by the consequences of climate change. As of today, the Green Belt Movement have planted over 51 million trees, and trained over 30,000 women in forestry, food processing, bee-keeping and other alternative livelihood skills to earn income, whilst preserving their environment.
SDG 13, Climate Action has not yet obtained the required urgency, despite the manifestations of environmental degradation’s effect on our daily lives, and requires all hands on board. The need to include and empower more women is very key to protecting and restoring our environment. In many developing countries, women are mostly the primary users and managers of natural resources, including land, water, and forest.
Therefore, at Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (TCS), every day is women’s day. We have a diverse group of women working in all our departments, programs, and community projects. However, this women’s month was very special as we specifically planned various activities to celebrate our women.
On March 8th, we celebrated women’s day in Freetown with the whole TCS team with a special lunch party and appreciation cards for women in all our departments: outreach office, care staff department, veterinary office, operations and finance office, interns and volunteers’ unit, and our kitchen staff. In Koinadugu District, Konombaia village, we conducted a menstrual health workshop and distributed reusable menstrual pads to the girls of our Roots & Shoots club.
Moreover, all our media programs this month focused on the role of women in protecting the environment.At Universal Radio, our Roots & Shoots Coordinator, Noah discussed the topic of women’s involvement in the environment, and how he works with girls and women through the TCS Roots & Shoots program to address different environmental issues. He highlighted some problems women face in the field of conservation and wildlife, and proposed solutions based on his experience at TCS.
At SLBC radio and Capital radio, Coordinator Haja discussed the role of women in environment and conservation, her work at TCS as the Media and Development Coordinator, and how TCS is working with, and for women in the field of wildlife conservation and environmental protection. As a woman in the field of environment, her take home message was to young girls who wanted to pursue a career in the field of environment. “Go for it! Of course, it is a male-dominated field, like many other professional careers out there. However, powerful women like Wangari Maathai have broken glass ceilings to protect the environment, way ahead of her time. If she can, I can, and you can!”.
Furthermore, we hosted a judiciary workshop for some of the most respected judges and magistrates in the country from the 15th to 17th of March. The workshop is part of TCS’s project titled “Action for Chimpanzees: Disrupting the Illegal Wildlife Trade”, funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and in collaboration with Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). The project aims to see a regional effort across West Africa to promote the preservation of endangered species and their habitats. We ensured that a high percentage of attendants were women, ranging from female magistrates and high court judges, lawyers, international trainers, representatives from the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), and our female staff. We strongly believe that women play a great role in preserving the environment and its species. Therefore, we need more women representation in workshops like this and spaces where environmental decisions are being made.
As we conclude this year’s women’s history month, we are proud to say we are working to create equal platforms for all genders when it comes to wildlife and conservation. However, women deserve a place in every sphere of life, and a month will never be enough to address all issues affecting women. Let us all work together to create safe spaces for women to be able to learn, contribute, work, and feel safe.