• Affirmative action plan has seen the number of female community rangers increase to 53.
• TTWCA is using men as gender crusaders to champion involvement of women in conservation.
The Taita Taveta Wildlife Conservancies Association has embarked on drive focusing on advancing gender equity.
The campaign is part of a wider deliberate action to break society cultural norms that have for years prevented women from taking part in conservation activities.
TTWCA chief executive officer Alfred Mwanake said they want to help more women participate in conservation and take leadership of different conservancies in the county.
“There have been myths why women within our cultural setup should not take a role within the conservancies. These cultural norms have held back our women hence the need for gender equity,” he said.
Mwanake told the Star women were not allowed to do ranching and herding as it is a preserve of Taita men.
He said the vast rangelands were considered the community's sacred places and women were not allowed in.
“Sacred places were set up within the areas that we are conserving. These places did not require women to be part of the rituals that would take place and that has since then excluded women from being part of conservation,” Mwanake said.
However, he said, the association is rising above retrogressive cultural systems by holding dialogue with men and women to make the landscape more progressive and sustainable.
“We have developed meaningful community dialogues. These dialogues aren't just conversations; they're powerful tools for shaping a more equitable future and changing negative cultural norms and practices,” Mwanake said.
TTWCA gender officer Maurine Nduati said inclusion of women in the men-dominated field has yielded fruit, with more women joining the conservancies.
She said the number of women community rangers has increase to 53. There are 250 rangers within the community conservancies.
The rangers are in charge of 33 conservancies and ranches spread across 1.1 million acres, including critical wildlife dispersal and migratory corridors at the Tsavo ecosystem.
Nduati said the association is keen on building the capacity of female rangers and creating policies to help women take up the conservation space.
“For us we are building the capacity, offering the platforms and creating the policies that are favourable for women to work in this field that is ideally considered for men,” she said.
Nduati said the association is using men as gender crusaders to champion involvement of women to ascend leadership positions in the conservancies and ranger chain of command.
The gender crusaders, she said, will help break the cultural barriers that perpetuate discrimination and exclusion of women.
Further, the officer said, the campaign is zeroing in on the crucial themes around gender-based violence and how it causes exclusion for the women and youth in conservancies’ leadership and governance.