“We are scouts. It is said that conservation is a man’s world. But in antipoaching patrols it’s teamwork. There’s no man or woman.”
Iness Njobvu is slight, proud, and quick as a whip. At just 26 years, she has shaken off the gender norms of her traditional community and has made BCP history as our first ever female Patrol Lead.
Iness emerged as a natural leader since her recruitment to the BCP scout team in 2015. After three years as a Community Scout in the Rufunsa District, in July she was promoted to a team-lead role along with another of her colleagues, Doreen Lungu.
“I am small in stature so at first it was difficult for teammates to get commands from me. Also, commanding scouts that have been working in this field for longer than me was a huge barrier I had to overcome,” Iness admits.
“This is a male dominated field and in Zambia men tend to look down on women as weaker vessels. Traditional gender roles here mean that sometimes men will expect me to carry luggage for them, cook, and do the chores. But this is a challenge to overcome because there are no special allowances for women while on patrol. Every day on patrol is a busy day for us all, and there’s no room for gender expectations.”
Despite the challenges, Iness is thrilled with her new leadership role and feels comfortable and confident in the support of her colleagues regardless of gender.
“Being a woman conducting scouts duties has one advantage. It is that over time you develop a strong mind and the knowledge that you can do everything men can do. In this way my role has been to inspire my team.
“I feel that I’m learning new things and getting better at my job every day. On patrol you learn to understand people’s behaviours under different conditions. You learn about the environment, and wildlife characteristics and behaviours.
“It’s a great honour to be part of the team that is protecting natural resources. Pressure is huge but I’m up to the challenge. It’s like any other job, with lows and highs, but nothing is impossible. You just have to be prepared and motivated.”
“You do not work in isolation, it’s all about team work. You look out for each other. You do everything together, like a family” Iness attests.
Just don’t ask her to carry your luggage.