Women in Conservation
By Mahlatse Mapheto
Environment and Society are not mutually exclusive and in most cases environmental concerns arise from inconsistencies within the broader social matrix. As a social scientist, I never thought I would ever find myself in the conservation sector because in my mind I always thought that this was a sector meant for ecologists and other “hard” scientists.
The Table Mountain Fund is an endowment fund within the conservation sector which aims to bring in new entrants into the conservation sector by providing programmes which facilitate the entry and development of new entrants while also creating local economic development opportunities. The Table Mountain Fund attempts to address key socio-economic and socio-environmental challenges, thus making its portfolio the perfect fit for me.
When I initially started my internship, I didn’t really understand the concept – conservation. I always thought that my interests were aligned towards sustainable development which took people and the protection of our natural resources, into consideration. As much as development is necessary for the socio-economic advancement of our country, we still need to conserve our natural resources. The Table Mountain Funds’ new conservation strategy manages to find equilibrium between the conservation of our natural resources and the creation of economic opportunities from natural resources, without creating any further harm to our natural resources.
As conservationists, we understand the importance of safeguarding the ecological infrastructure, as that makes all life possible. We all rely on our natural resources, in one way or another, which is why it is our duty to protect, preserve and foster a harmonious co-existence. As much as we understand the significance of conserving our natural resources, we also understand the significance of people within this concern, thus also the significance of women. Women are the caretakers of our society and the pillars of our strength and existence. As caretakers, women are the agents of change which is why we can look to women for the development of new pathways and the transition into sustainable living. By bringing in women as new entrants into the conservation sector, we empower them by giving them an opportunity to play a role in managing their land and also developing their own economic opportunities.
As a social scientist, I see myself as a new entrant into the conservation sector and as a women, I fully understand the importance of the inclusion of women in critical decision-making roles in our conservation sector.