Author: Tracy Melvin
With generous funding from the Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust, Aaranyak, Global Wildlife Conservation, and the International Finance Corporation, the Women in Nature Network (WiNN) hosted their fourth annual global networking event, “WiNN India 2019”.
From January 28th to February 2, 2019, 60 women from 12 different countries came together in Guwahati, Assam - situated south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys – a northeastern Indian treasure. Here, surrounded by success stories from a state that has conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction and one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant, these women started building an international community of 21st-Century conservation practitioners. The event was held with the leadership of Purnima Devi Barman, WiNN partnered Aaranyak (www.aaranayak.org), a Guwahati based NGO, and with the Kamrup District Administration, Kamrup Police, and Assam Forest Department.
The conference was an immense success; participants felt mobilized and empowered as a sisterhood of conservation leaders, inspired through an intimate space for discussing our shared experiences, unique challenges, and collective hopes for the future of global conservation. The event centered around keystone messaging and field-based learning, including the amazing community women’s group organized by Purnima Barman, called the “Hargila Army” from Dadara, Pacharia, and Singimari villages - women who are saving the world’s rarest and Endangered species: the enormous 5-foot tall Greater Adjutant Stork, known locally as “Hargila” (“bone-eater”). Participants were honored to be a part of the Dadara Village Bird Rally with school children, the Hargila Army, and actual Hargila, circling above us.
The event also included prominent conservation speakers, panel discussions, four workshops, and a special visit from His Excellency, the Honorable Governor of Assam. The Sally Ride Conservation Symposium included four inspiring talks by women conservation leaders: Claudia Sobrevila, Program Manager for the Global Wildlife Program, World Bank, USA; Huyen Do, Gaia Nature Conservation, Vietnam; Shriparna Roy Saxena, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, India; and Dr. Oinam Sunanda Devi, Scientific Officer, Assam Biodiversity Board. Dr. Kashmira Kakati, wildlife biologist and activist; gave a riveting Keynote Presentation on the incredible diversity of life in Northeast India, and her equally incredible field experiences from over 20 years as a field biologist.
The Symposium also featured two panel discussions: “Creating women leaders in conservation” and “What emerging leaders need.” Workshops. Four workshops offered training for participants: 1) Community Conservation, by Purnima Devi Barman, India, 2) Beyond 3R: a way towards a zero waste life style in conservation, by Kanchana Weerakoon, Sri Lanka 3) Conservation Leadership by Jessica Deichmann and Leeanne Alonso, WiNN, and 4) Environment Education by María Susana Rocha Mier, Gente Sustentable A.C., Mexico. Intimate and powerful panel discussions included “Challenges and success stories from women in natural resource management”, and “Can women leaders have it all? Balance between work and personal life”. Lastly, a beautiful exchange of experiences included an early-morning, mist-laden community trip to Deepar Beel Wetland –a Ramsar Site frequented by wild elephants, 219 species of birds, and home to giant water lilies. We were also impressed by an evening presentation using puppetry as an environment education tool, with the performance of “How Green my world is…” by Drishana Kalita, and the talented women weavers of Dadara Village.
On World Wetland Day 2019, GROOTS Kenya received an award from the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Forestry and National Environment Management Authority in recognition of their work in spearheading community-led environment conservation and climate change resilience campaigns. GROOTS Kenya focuses on supporting the engagement of women in leadership and advocacy at the grassroots level. Congratulations on this fantastic work!
From August 2-4, 2018, 70 women will gather in north-eastern Guyana to connect and share their knowledge of nature and how to conserve it. Sponsored by the Women in Nature Network (WiNN), World Wildlife Fund Guianas, and Conservation International Guyana, the event’s theme is “Connecting through Community Conservation.” Women from indigenous communities in the hinterland of Guyana will join with women from Guyana’s government and NGOs, and women from seven other countries including India, Suriname, French Guiana, USA, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia.
This is a unique women-only event, designed so to provide an encouraging environment for open discourse among the women. Participants will explore how connections made during the event can empower them to do more toward conserving the natural resources of our planet.
The event features several prestigious speakers, including the Hon. Valerie Garrido Lowe, Minister within the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Guyana and Jennifer Morris, President of Conservation International. The agenda includes presentations, panel discussions, workshops and round-table discussions.
Anne Savage, Conservation Director for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL and Ana Isabel Olivar Alvarez from ASOARTESANAS in Colombia will lead a workshop to make eco-mochilas. Thirteen years ago, a group of 15 women began to create eco-mochilas, beautiful tote bags crocheted from recycled plastic bags as a way to generate a sustainable income while also protecting the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin (monkey) found only in Colombia. Led by Ana Isabel, ASOARTESANAS has grown to more than 50 local women that are the mainstay of the program and they have trained more than 300 women in the techniques of creating eco-mochilas from recycled plastic bags from around the world. Under Ana’s leadership these women have successfully pulled their families out of extreme poverty and decreased their dependency on forest products allowing cotton-top tamarins to thrive in the region.
Most important are the social networking events to be held in the evening, where the women can make connections with other participants. New ideas, projects and opportunities are expected to come from these new connections. One evening will feature a “Conservation Fair and Marketplace” where participants can display their information about their conservation projects or research, or can sell natural products or handicrafts that they make in order to support their local conservation efforts. This evening is bound to showcase a wide variety of interesting products and projects.
WiNN will be posting stories, photos and video interviews on the WiNN website
(link) and WiNN Facebook page (link) during the event. We invite you to follow
us to hear about the exciting work of these amazing WiNN women.
For more information, please contact:
Margot McManus, WiNN communications intern, email@example.com
Leeanne Alonso, WiNN Founding member, firstname.lastname@example.org