Women are gaining ground in conservation

In Climate Change, Featured, Past News, People by couchiching

International Women’s Day is a special opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and resilience of women in our lives.

Always a special day, it has become even more important now than it was three short years ago. The pandemic was a concentrated reminder that external stressors on families mean a rise in gender based violence, and sacrifices made by women for the family, with inordinate numbers of women leaving the work force. Many mothers were forced into the impossible juggling act of working and virtual school; two full time jobs.

The pandemic was a climate related event as its root was in habitat loss and encroachment. Like other catastrophes caused by the climate crisis women experienced compound effects.  The volume of research to prove this correlation would take years to read; flooding, fires and the loss of arable land all affect women disproportionately. This is just one of many reasons why conservation and environmentalism are so important. Climate justice is social justice.

In the world of conservation; we know that women’s empowerment is essential to our success. According to the UN: “At the local level the participation of women in natural resource management is associated with better resource governance and conservation outcomes.”

“In the world of conservation; we know that women’s empowerment is essential to our success.”

Through my work I have had the opportunity to meet amazing women working across the conservation sector; female foresters, stewardship managers, and scientists. I recently met Deborah Martin-Downs a woman who was the first CEO of Credit Valley Conservation, one of the largest conservation authorities in the province. To hear stories from her beginnings studying ‘Man and the Environment’ in the ‘70’s through being the only woman on many a work site in the ‘80’s and struggling to find mentors because of the assumption was that she would ‘just have babies and leave’ I was relieved to know things are changing.

Increasingly at environmental conferences as the age demographic changes, so too does the gender make up as more and more talented women join in the work to protect the planet. All this and more make me proud to be a woman working in conservation in Ontario, especially at The Couchiching Conservancy.

The Conservancy has a continuing legacy of providing women with positions of power within the organization. This year at our AGM we brought on a new president, Kathy Hunt, to lead us into the future and we have welcomed the third Executive Director in our history, Dorthea Hangaard, a woman who has achieved a great deal in her career as an environmentalist.

The Conservancy has time and again gained from the talent, intelligence and energy of the young women who come through our doors, both volunteers and staff such as Aiesha Aggarwal, Alysha Henry and Madeleine Fournier will be our next generation of empowered women. With them on the scene the future looks bright indeed.

To all the hard working women in our lives, and all the amazing women in The Conservancy community, we wish you a happy International Women’s Day.

Courtney Baker is the Office and Acquisition Coordinator at The Couchiching Conservancy, protecting nature for future generations of women and girls.