WOMEN IN CONSERVATION TECHNOLOGY - FROM KENYA TO THE WORLD.
The use of technology to support wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystem protection continues to draw attention among practitioners from around the world. From November 4-7, 2022, the annual Earth-Ranger User Conference was held at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Kenya. This event brought together over 300 participants drawn from various sectors including conservation and technology sectors.
In attendance among this set of skilled individuals and organizations were the Women in Conservation Technology (WiCT). WiCT is a 6-month program run by WILDLABS, Fauna & Flora International, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It is designed to capacity-build early-career East African women in conservation through mentorship and hands-on experience with tech tools used in conservation. The WiCT program began in May 2022 with its first cohort consisting of 15 passionate and dedicated women from diverse conservation backgrounds.
As times continue to evolve, so do the challenges experienced in the world of conservation. Research and monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystems call for modern-world technological solutions. At the same time, disparities in gender inclusion on matters of conservation through capacity development and provision of opportunities, are increasingly recognized as an issue of concern. Gender inequality impedes the development of human resources for conservation science and technology, but it also increases the environmental damage caused by imbalanced decision-making. During this year’s Earth-Ranger user conference, WiCT was privileged to host panel discussions on gender equality in the conservation field.
The discussions kickstarted with an overview of the WiCT program and a round of introductions from the cohort. During the first panel discussion, on November 4, Alina Peter from Grumeti Trust Fund, Dr. Angela Mercia from Gorongoso conservancy, and WiCT’s very own Ann Wambui from Mugie Conservancy led discussions on the use of Earth-Ranger sharing their respective experiences as women implementing the tool in the conservation space.
‘Women are the backbone of society, hence, women empowerment is a surety of an empowered present and future society’ - Ann Wambui
To WiCT’s amazement, the team was invited by the EarthRanger conference organizers to host a second-panel discussion on day two, as there was such demand from conference participants for the space to discuss these issues. . Led by Janet Kavutha, this further discussion with Redemta Njeri from Grevy's Zebra Trust, Ann Wambui, and Cathrine Wambani from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) emphasized the need to incorporate women in the conservation technology spaces, not just as end users but also in the development of these conservation tech tools.
‘As much as we are advocating for more women to be supported and given equal opportunities in the conservation field, the issue of gender equality remains controversial. Seeing an all-gender and interactive audience today, is an inspiration to us’ - says Consolata Gathoni, a woman in Conservation Technology.
The advancement of women in conservation technology and the opportunity for more diverse perspectives have the potential to suggest more effective ways of resource use and to lead to a more harmonious long-term balance between conservation efforts and economic development.t is critical to provide equal access to conservation technology to women and other underrepresented groups to better work towards a more sustainable future. There is no greater indication of progress and potential than the gathering of people in a single room. Every person in the room has the potential to bring something new to the table, and with the collective knowledge and efforts of everyone in the room, real and systemic changes toward gender equality in conservation can be realized.
A special shout out to Meredith Palmer, Stephanie O’Donnell and Talia Speaker from the WILDLABS team, and EarthRanger for their continued support and guidance.
Special thanks to the entire WiCT team for the remarkable team efforts demonstrated in conceptualizing the two workshops! WiCT to the world!