Whether they are preparing delicious plant-based meals, training the next intake of rangers, or ensuring that all of our operations are well managed, the women of IAPF are changing the landscape of wildlife conservation in Africa.
As we celebrate International Women's Day under the theme; breaking the bias, IAPF is committed to further cementing its longstanding support of women in conservation through a range of initiatives to narrow the gender gap.
The Akashinga program is an initiative that women in rural Zimbabwe have taken on with a stride and have made it their own, achieving remarkable results.
Our local patrols have increased to 40-50 each month, covering new areas as a result of their impeccable work ethic.
We can now deploy at least eight sticks of five rangers on extended patrols per month, while also having rangers in the operations room doing administrative tasks, a security team, and drivers.
The success of the Akashinga program has created a space where these women can support themselves and their families. It has also given women in specialist conservation roles, an opportunity to share their ideas and implement strategies that help us grow and fight wildlife crime.
Meet some of the women of IAPF who are breaking the bias:
Pamela is a training instructor and training administrator for IAPF. As a tourism and hospitality management graduate, she is passionate about guest relations and conservation. Before joining the Akashinga rangers, she was based in South Africa where she completed an attachment in Cape Town within the conservation industry.
She is an advocate for ensuring women are given a platform to be recognised for their skills and abilities both professionally and personally.
On breaking gender stereotypes, Pamela believes that this is something that should be instilled from a young age so that all children grow up valuing one another for their unique talents and gifts.
“When women are seen and heard, it gives us confidence that we are being appreciated and that we can do anything that men can do.”
“Young children must be taught to see each other as equals from an early age. I believe if they can be given similar chores and education opportunities, they can learn to respect one another which could make a difference in how they view each other's abilities when they grow up.”
Dominique is the IAPF Director of Operations Africa, overseeing our projects on the ground in the different countries we are operating in.
She joined in 2021, after serving as the Program Lead for LEAD Ranger for four years, ensuring that the greatest quality training was provided for local ranger instructors, who could then pass on their knowledge to their colleagues.
In 2016, she co-founded the Ranger Campus (RC) Foundation, after having spent a couple of years in conservation, working for IUCN and in a National Park in Malawi.
She believes in raising awareness of what it means to be a woman, and the challenges that come with that.
Speaking on what breaking the bias means, Dominique believes it is all about making the invisible, visible.
“Having a bias means that your view of reality is skewed. And we all have them, and often don’t even realise it.”
“I strongly believe in female champions. I’ve seen it work with the Akashinga rangers, they just blaze the trail and prove to anyone who doubts them.”
When Chef Judy is not busy preparing mouth watering, plant-based meals that provide nutritional benefits for the rangers in camp, she can be found studying towards a diploma in hospitality.
Before joining the IAPF, she was running a canteen business in her local township in Nyamakate with the hopes of furthering her education or finding a career path that would give her financial independence.
Despite her best efforts, she was still not able to make ends meet by running the canteen and the hope of ever obtaining a tertiary education dwindled.
When she heard about the opportunity to join the IAPF in their kitchen, she did not hesitate to put her best foot forward. After successfully being interviewed and landing a position as a chef, she was trained on how to make plant-based meals.
Today Chef Judy is now the Head Chef and is pioneering her own dreams to turn them into reality through education.
The progress she has made towards building a better future for herself has given her the confidence to reach back to her community and inspire young women to be brave.
Sharing her thoughts on what breaking the bias means to her, Chef Judy says, “women are hard workers, whatever men can do women can do it.”
“We have rangers who break the bias every day and take on tasks that people believe only men can do. Outside of my work, I have also observed women in Karoi who have their own mine that is female owned.”
“Back in my community we also have women who are now becoming bricklayers and some are even taking it a step further by completing construction projects on their own.”
“This shows me that when more opportunities are created and are inclusive, women can then take up their space and thrive.”
Michelle is the Assistant Reserve Manager and is based in the Hurungwe district with a lifelong passion and involvement in biodiversity conservation and nature.
She believes the Akashinga model is a step in the right direction and states that studies have shown that women are more prone to making decisions with empathy, and poaching is ultimately about poverty.
“Having an all-women ranger force presents an alternative to the norm hard-line approach. They have jobs that earn them respect in their communities (which also enhances the prevention of human-wildlife conflict through dialogue) as well as benefiting from economic empowerment and financial independence.”
Speaking on the importance of breaking the bias Michelle believes the best way to address gender stereotypes is to prove them wrong.
“Women are already excelling in engineering, mechanics, science and other ‘traditionally’ male-dominated areas.”
“We need to nurture and encourage girls and young women through positive mentorship and by working to provide them with better, more equitable, access to education and opportunities.”
Thanks to supporters like you, these women are breaking the bias.
All donations this month will be matched to $100K, doubling your impact and empowering more women to become leaders in their community.