This blog celebrates the amazing women in our portfolio – many of whom work in male-dominated contexts, some putting their lives on the line to protect nature; to defend their communities; or to promote the rights of women and girls. Their work is inspirational.
Mabuwaya Foundation’s Deputy Director Tess Gatan Balbas is dedicating her life to preventing the extinction of the Critically Endangered Philippine Crocodile. She passionately leads her staff and local communities in Luzon Province so that they can live a more peaceful existence with the species, helping to restore its habitat and providing a breeding programme that boosts survival rates. In recognition of her hard work, passion and knowledge, Tess was awarded a prestigious Whitley Award for Nature in 2014.
In North Kivu in Eastern DRC Reseau CREF is working across its membership of around 30 local organisations to improve gender equality within natural resource management. With rape rates at around 50 an hour, the DRC – and especially the East of the country – is one of the most dangerous places to be a woman. Marginalised groups, including poor rural communities and indigenous forest peoples, are particularly at risk. Through its work to empower women to manage and conserve forests, Reseau CREF is slowly helping to change gender dynamics and attitudes to women, which will ultimately contribute towards making this a safer place for women to live and work.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), Act Now! was co-founded by lawyer and activist Effrey Dademo. Effrey is helping to lead the fight against destructive land grabs for agribusiness and logging which threaten the vast biological and cultural diversity in PNG. While politics are extremely male-dominated in PNG, Effrey is providing a strong role model for women.
In Sabah Malaysia, Hutan has helped to change attitudes towards women through reforestation. When Hutan started its reforestation programme several years ago, it was very difficult for women to work in the region, let alone to spend long days out in the field away from home. However, Hutan has developed strong and lasting relationships with local communities and a few key women have helped to showcase just how important their roles are in planting and caring for seedlings. Today, Hutan’s reforestation work is led by a majority-female team. Reforestation efforts have exceeded expectations and other girls and women now have female role models to aspire to!
The International Rivers Africa programme is led by Rudo Sanyanga. We first started supporting Rudo’s work because of her amazing dedication and tenacity in a region that faces growing threats to its biological and cultural diversity. For the first two years, Rudo was working in isolation, but our funding helped her to recruit a colleague – Ange; both regularly visit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and help to build community capacity and understanding about the large dams under development. Rudo and Ange also work hard to fight for local people’s rights and to protect biodiversity when damaging plans go ahead.
In Vietnam, Green Innovation and Development (Green ID) is led by Nguy Thi Khanh who strives to protect Vietnam’s remaining wildlife and build an energy approach that meets the needs of local people and does not rely on large scale energy infrastructure. She has been working with local women to help them to make changes to their homes by improving access to environmentally friendly sanitation facilities, building materials and energy.
In Bhutan, Rebecca Pradhan of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) – originally from northeast India – has dedicated her life to saving the White-bellied Heron, at times almost entirely alone, often spending weeks in remote places to monitor the herons. Rebecca cares passionately about this species and hopes to help protect it and all it represents in the health of Bhutan’s freshwater systems and forests.
As part of the AgroEcology Fund, we support partners around the world to research, practice and advocate for agroecological solutions – many of which are developed by women who play a vital role in protecting traditional seeds and practicing farming techniques that reflect natural cycles; improve food security and nutrition; help to protect communities and habitats from the impacts of climate change; or challenge large destructive agribusiness companies.