Sara Inés Lara, leader of Colombia-based bird conservation organization Fundación ProAves, got her first taste of conservation’s potential more than 30 years ago. She was raised in Colombia. One of the most biodiverse locations in the worldShe fled to the mountains, forests, and pools of the Andes for refuge. In 1998, she discovered about the yellow-eared Parrot.
It was once a common bird in her hometown and throughout the Colombian Andes. However, its population has plummeted to just 81 individuals. She was so moved by the fate of the bird that she quit her job as a civil engineer to start ProAves to help it.
With the help of nearby communities, especially local women, the group successfully fought for an end to the logging of wax palms—the bird’s nesting and feeding site—and hunting of the parrot for sport. The yellow-eared Parrot was adopted as a regional symbol. The population began to grow quickly. Today, there are more than 2,800 individuals, and a couple of years ago, a flock of two dozen parrots was spotted near Lara’s hometown.
It was a significant win and taught Lara an important lesson. Women are crucial in conservation. Women are often involved in conservation. Feel the negative effects of environmental degradation most strongly, and their participation in ProAves’ work quickly demonstrated that they were essential to the success of community-based conservation projects. In many rural communities in Colombia, women are responsible for meeting their families’ most basic needs from nature, including water, firewood, and food—all of which become increasingly difficult as the environment suffers. But she needed to support the women she met.
“Many of the women I met were exhausted from childbearing, they did not have any food to feed their children, and they were desperate to have access to family planning,” says Lara.
Lara founded Women for Conservation in 2004 with the goal of increasing access to public health, family planning and economic opportunities. The non-profit organization aims to improve the health and economic independence of communities near nature reserves so that they can better protect their environment. The organization offers workshops and trainings that range from environmental education to sustainable livelihoods, family planning, and sustainable livelihoods for women in 10 communities. It was established independently of ProAves in late 2019 and reports that it has reached more than 2,200 people directly, mostly young women and girls.
Women for Conservation also trains women to make wildlife-friendly artisan craft to replace cattle ranching and deforestation. In Puerto Pinzón, for example, as part of a broader project to protect the blue-billed curassow, the organization Taught women how to collect tagua nut, the seeds of palm trees that are known as “vegetable ivory,” and to produce jewelry that they can sell on the market. Women for Conservation encouraged the community to ban hunting and use fuel-efficient stoves to reduce deforestation. They also suggested that a tree nursery be started.
Women for Conservation also offers workshops that train women for careers in conservation or ecotourism.
Ninfa Estella Cartinialli, the first woman forest ranger, was trained and sponsored initially by Women for Conservation. She The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) awarded the International Ranger Award in 2021, and she works in the Águila Harpía ProAves Reserve, which is located in the eastern Colombian state of Guainía.
Carinialli’s first few years as a forest guard were hard. “My son drowned and my husband passed away from COVID,” she remembers. As it happened with Lara, the forest was a refuge. “I felt a deep sadness, but I am thankful for the memories I have with them, and for the opportunity to work in conservation, which makes me happy and fills me with peace.”
Overcoming Myths & Barriers
One of the most important—and sensitive—tasks Women for Conservation has taken on is a focus on reproduction and family planning in local communities. Lara had to face resistance from the local communities at first. “When we started talking about family planning, we had a couple of incidents where women were severely beaten up for participating in our workshops,” she says. “I learned in a hard way that we need to present women’s empowerment not as a threat, but as a benefit for the family.”
In partnership avec the reproductive and family healthcare organization ProfamiliaWomen for Conservation offers family planning services and workshops on reproductive health. The organization has reported that it has provided contraceptive implants for 360 women and 27 surgical procedures since the pandemic.
The ability to plan pregnancies becomes vital for women and girls when they can’t depend on the natural environment for basic survival needs, says Kelly Donado, who organizes logistics for the family planning brigades at Women for Conservation.
“When there’s ever-less food, jobs, and water, it scares me to think of bringing more babies into the world,” she says. “What kind of situation are we bringing them into? When girls have unplanned pregnancies, they cannot be adequate carers, and often, they’re not able to provide for their babies.”
Donado is leading an effort in Zona Bankanera, Santa Marta’s municipality that suffers water scarcity from diversion for palm and banana cultivation. Her sister, a local nurse, has offered her home as a place for clinics and workshops. There are no medical clinics in the region. Ana Marquis, an 18 year old from the area, was one of those who took part and decided to get a contraceptive device.
“It lets me decide when to have my children,” she says in Spanish. She has had two miscarriages in recent years. “Right now, I’m looking after myself so that I can study and not have to worry about getting pregnant.”
Women for Conservation provided contraceptive implant technology to 72 Zona Bananera ladies in February 2022. The group also provided follow-ups, screenings, and education workshops. By the time the group’s representatives returned in March for checkups, more than 190 women and girls had added their names to the waiting list. Women for Conservation started receiving contraceptives from men. This led to the first vasectomy procedures being performed in Zona Bananera in February 2022.
“Family planning has myriad social, economic, and environmental benefits: It improves the livelihoods and well-being of people and the planet and relieves population pressures on the natural environment, as well as on food production and water scarcity,” says Catriona Spaven-Donn, the Empower to Plan project coordinator for the British charity Population Matters, which supports Women for Conservation.
Women for Conservation has made significant progress in destigmatizing family plan planning, but there is still resistance. Marquis claims her family forbade her from getting the implant until 18 years old, as they did for her 16-yearold sister.
Some families believe that restricting access to contraceptive resources for teenagers will stop them engaging in sexual activity. A belief that has been widely discredited.
Women for Conservation faced opposition from other environmental leaders. Lara recalls that other conservation leaders told her that it was not a priority to work with women, but that it was nice. She was warned to avoid talking about the relationship between increasing population, poverty, and environmental effects whenever she spoke.
That’s a trend in recent decadesAmong development, environmental, or reproductive rights community groups. Instead of focusing on demographic factors, the focus is on sexual and reproduction health, choice and rights of individuals.
“In the past, people wasted a lot of time stereotyping our planetary crises, asking whether the main problem is population or consumption,” says Phoebe Barnard, professor of global change science and futures at the University of Washington, and founding director of the global Stable Planet Alliance, which aims at stabilizing and reducing consumption and global populations. “Well, of course, it’s not either–or. It’s both. Investing in women’s education, leadership, and opportunities remains a really powerful way to bring benefits not only for women, but for families and children, nature, and the future of our whole civilization.”
Still, even the issues of reproductive health and women’s rights can be difficult to raise among poor, rural Colombian women living in communities where maternity and a large number of children are often viewed positively, and where men may feel a loss of control over women’s sexuality when women use modern contraceptives. Contraception is appropriate in such situations. Sometimes seen as undermining traditional gender roles, and the stability of the coupleIt is not to be trusted or used.
What’s clear is the close tie between women’s empowerment and environmental outcomes. Recent research revealed that Women account for 80% of the people who have been displaced by climate change.. The Gender equality was made an integral part by the United Nations in its Sustainable Development GoalsFrom equal access to education to family plan.
Women for Conservation has expanded its focus to include family planning and basic services to ensure the safety and health of Colombian women. In Colombia, breast cancer is the most common form.So, last year, the NGO began offering mammograms to women and trained them on how to perform a self-breast examination. Lara has also begun to lead workshops and education about domestic violence after there was an increase in calls for domestic violence hotlines.
CrossPosted from Common Dreams.