Today is the inaugural World Female Ranger Day, an idea hatched by the environmental charity How Many Elephants. Obviously it’s World Something Day every day, some of them worthy, some less so. Monday was Indigenous People’s Day, yesterday World Rainforests Day. Even today has competition, as the UN has a focus on widows today. Widows are sidelined in some cultures, with no husband and no prospect of remarrying, so a date on the calendar creates attention on some of the world’s most invisible people.
So in amongst all these many special days, why female rangers?
It’s about visibility. There are female rangers at work in many places, but only 11% of the world’s rangers are women. Women are under-represented across conservation, and in outdoor culture generally, which can sometimes be a bit macho and male dominated. A day focusing on female rangers showcases the good work already happening, and encourages more women to see themselves in those kinds of roles.
“People said this training is for men and we couldn’t do it because we are women” says Leitah Mkhabela, a 28 year old anti-poaching ranger in South Africa. “But people started to come around once the impact of the female rangers was clear. It has helped women in the community to see themselves differently. People have seen how we want to do this and so many women started to support us.”
This year’s campaign focuses on Africa, where some female rangers have had to overcome considerable odds to get where they are. Work in conservation has given them confidence and broken new ground for women, as well as helping them support their families. They are playing an important role in caring for wildlife and they can see the difference they make.
“As champions of wildlife conservation,” says the campaign website, “as role models, as educators and as beacons of hope, these female rangers are not only transforming attitudes towards the role of women in Africa and beyond but are also showing the capabilities and success of females in traditionally male roles.”
This combination of nature protection, female empowerment and job creation cuts across multiple Global Development Goals, and so it’s great to see it celebrated today.
Check out the website for more details, and to see how you can take part.