Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, but we’re not stopping celebrations at one day. Instead we are dedicating a whole month to celebrating the incredible women on the frontlines of conservation through this three part series of interviews. First up is Mwaka Mphande, one of our Community Engagement Officers who is playing a key role in working with communities to protect the forest.
How long have you been working for the USAID funded Community Forests Program implemented by BCP?
What is the best part of your role at BCP?
I enjoy being out in the field work, working with communities on Environmental Education Activities and writing reports. I also get really excited about working with all people in the community and promoting gender equality in conservation.
What is the greatest challenge you face in your work in conservation?
We walk long distances while monitoring the forest and boundary painting. It’s a lot of hard work. The other challenge is getting people to understand our project and why they should protect trees.
As a woman – what challenges have you faced in pursuing your career goals? How do you overcome these challenges?
My biggest challenge has been finding finances for my studies, but I have overcome these challenges by utilizing opportunities that come my way.
Why is it important to work with women at a community level in conservation projects?
Women in general manage and act as sources of information on the use of natural resources. Around the world they have many responsibilities at the household level and manage a range of activities at the community level. They benefit from the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity. Women are very committed to forest protection and management.
What barriers do you think women face in getting involved in conservation?
In many cultures women are excluded from leadership and decision making roles. Deforestation affects women in particular because they are usually the ones who collect firewood and water while traveling long distances. This means they spend more time and energy doing this, which has a negative impact on other activities to earn income and have free time. Women’s rights to land and forests are also not as secure as a man’s.
What advice would you give young girls who want to get involved in conservation?
I advise young girls to stay focused at school, join a conservation youth group, get involved by volunteering for other conservation activities and share your conservation knowledge with the community.
This blog is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of BCP and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
Photo Credits: BCP