Women in Conservation

Posted 11th March 2024


In the vast landscape of wildlife and biodiversity conservation, women globally have played instrumental roles for driving transformative change through collaboration and collective action. From grassroots initiatives to global advocacy campaigns, women have challenged gender norms and stereotypes while pioneering innovative approaches to environmental stewardship. Figures like Rachel Carson, whose seminal work “Silent Spring” spurred the modern environmental movement, Dian Fossey, who dedicated her life to the study and protection of mountain gorillas, and Jane Goodall, whose ground breaking research revolutionized our understanding of chimpanzees, exemplify the trailblazing spirit and unwavering dedication that women bring to the conservation initiatives.


One of the aspects of conservation where women’s role has been pivotal is fostering meaningful connections between communities and ecosystems. In various geographies, it can be observed that women often have distinct perspectives shaped by their responsibilities within their families and communities (Priya D and Madhu R, 2010) . They understand nature as a source of sustenance, borrowing from it for the survival and well-being of their loved ones (Vandana Shiva, 1998). This deep-rooted connection enables women to cultivate local participation and ownership, ensuring the success and sustainability of conservation efforts. Studies have shown that women often have a nuanced understanding of wildlife interactions, recognizing the need for coexistence between humans and animals, which must be considered in conservation planning (Rocío Almuna, et al. 2022).


Recognizing the contributions of women in conservation requires acknowledging the significant role of indigenous and local community women. Initiatives led by women at the grassroots level, such as the Lion Guardians in Kenya founded by Leela Hazzah, showcase the effectiveness of community-based approaches in protecting endangered species and habitats. These initiatives leverage innovative strategies and empower communities to become stewards of their natural resources, impacts of which often go beyond just environmental preservation. Research has shown that when women are involved in decision-making processes related to natural resource management, there are often broader benefits for communities, including improved livelihoods, health outcomes, and social cohesion (James, R. et. al 2021) For example, in many parts of the world, women are responsible for water collection and management. When they are included in water resource management initiatives, it not only enhances conservation efforts but also ensures equitable access to clean water, benefiting entire communities which then have multifaceted benefits.


Women-led conservation efforts have shown a particular focus on holistic approaches that integrate environmental sustainability with social and economic development. This approach recognizes the interconnectedness of environmental issues with broader social and economic challenges and seeks solutions that address multiple dimensions simultaneously. By prioritizing community engagement and empowerment, women in conservation are not only safeguarding natural resources but also fostering resilient and thriving communities.


Despite their significant contributions, women in conservation continue to face challenges such as gender-based discrimination and limited access to resources. However, there is growing recognition of the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in conservation, creating opportunities for greater inclusion and collaboration. Initiatives like the Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO) project aim to mainstream gender considerations in conservation policies and practices, paving the way for more inclusive and effective approaches. Collaboration is increasingly recognized as essential for addressing complex conservation challenges, and women excel in collaborative settings, leveraging diverse perspectives and fostering cooperation among stakeholders. Initiatives like the Women for Wildlife network facilitate knowledge sharing and collective action among female conservation leaders, driving progress towards shared conservation goals. By working together, women can amplify their impact and achieve greater outcomes for wildlife and biodiversity conservation.


Looking to the future, it is essential to address gender disparities, promote women’s leadership, and create supportive environments for collaboration in wildlife and biodiversity conservation. By embracing diversity and fostering collaboration, we can harness the full potential of women in conservation and ensure the resilience of ecosystems for future generations. In a world facing unprecedented environmental challenges, women’s leadership and collaboration are more vital than ever in safeguarding the natural world.


About the Author


Pakhi Das is a conservation professional deeply committed to shaping a future where policies and planning are aligned with the imperative of preserving Earth’s rich biodiversity. With a profound appreciation for the interconnectedness of ecosystems and human societies, she is passionate about analysing conservation policies and advocating for evidence-based solutions that prioritize the protection of species and habitats, promote ecological restoration, and address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss.


Pakhi coordinates the Global Youth Biodiversity Network the official youth constituency under the UN CBD in India, and is committed to promoting involvement from marginalized conservation stakeholders, including youth, indigenous communities, and women. She actively seeks collaborations to empower and build capacity, ultimately working towards intergenerational equity.



Shiva, V. (1988). Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Survival in India. New Delhi .

Davider, P. and Rao, M (2010). Empowering women facilitates conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.02.014

Almuna, R., Cortés, J., Medina M. and Vargas, S. (2022). We are silently paving the way toward human–wildlife coexistence: The role of women in the rural landscapes of southern Andes.

Read more:,nature%20of%20human%E2%80%93wildlife%20interactions.

James, R., Gibbs, B., Whitford, L., Leisher, C., Konia, R., Butt, N. (2021). Conservation and natural resource management: where are all the women?. Oryx. 55. 1-8. 10.1017/S0030605320001349.

Further reading:

Women and Natural Resources Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential:

Women as decision makers in community forest management: Evidence from Nepal: