In 2009, the women of Sani Isla faced an untenable dilemma– one faced by many rainforest communities: earning the income they need to sustain themselves and their families, or protecting their valued rainforest home. The culture in Sani Isla is rooted in a connection to nature, and the community was already searching for a way to solve this problem. They’d begun making money through a community lodge, hoping to tap into eco-tourism. But, this eco-lodge was managed by the men in the community, and left women with little influence in decision making over the land and without a way to earn their own income. We partnered with the amazing women in Sani Isla, enabling them to make a desired return to their traditional craft-making and, importantly, create a successful women owned and operated business from this skill!
Rainforest Partnership is an organization founded and driven by strong women, which has given us a unique awareness of challenges faced by women in conservation and in the world at large. Seeing the ways gender inequality negatively impacts our partner rainforest communities, the overall environment, and our own lives, we are committed to investing in women’s empowerment projects. Our partnership with the community of Sani Isla is a clear demonstration of the impact our projects and support achieves. We provided workshops and trips that helped women develop their business skills. They gained a sense of accomplishment, and created a sustainable future for themselves and their community.
This is just one example: our actions to promote gender equality are incorporated in our collaborations with every partner community. Many of our partners are seeking an economic alternative to deforestation. As part of our goal to support these communities in their desired transition to a sustainable relationship with the rainforest, we provide opportunities for individuals to enhance their skills to become the leaders of tomorrow. Our work empowers women, and encourages them to develop their skills by boosting their confidence and knowledge.
In our partner community of Corosha, we work with the Golden Bear Association’s two committees composed of 70% women. In the town of San Antonio, we support a women-led committee managing eco-tourism. Last year, the women from the Golden Bear Association travelled to San Antonio with the goal of sharing their experiences in leading a conservation association. During this visit, they also trained the San Antonio women through an artisanal craft workshop to teach the women of San Antonio to produce knitted yellow-tailed woolly monkey and Andean bear toys, since both communities, though 400 miles apart, have populations of both the Andean Spectacled Bear and also the Yellow Tailed Woolly Monkey. The women of Corosha also learned about tourism practices being used in San Antonio. For many women on this trip, it was their first time travelling on buses and planes across the country, and an opportunity to develop skills to promote their financial independence.
We also recognize the need for increased awareness and broader changes to address gender inequalities. It’s why we organized a workshop in 2019 for “Women in Conservation” during the 2nd Congress of Peruvian Primatology, which gave women an opportunity to discuss their experiences surrounding sexism with a gender issues specialist. Later, over 60 women from across Latin America and the Carribean came together to create an agenda to address gender issues in tandem with the climate emergency and biodiversity collapse. At this conference Rainforest Partnership’s Peru team learned some startling information about gender inequality, which we shared with our audience. One example: only 15% of landowners in and around the rainforest communities are women, making it difficult for them to participate in life-altering decisions about the future of their land and forest.
The agenda created at this conference was presented at the 3rd Congress of Protected Areas in Latin America. It will also be addressed at the IUNC’s World Conservation Congress, which has been rescheduled for 2021. By bringing attention to the relationship between gender inequality and conservation, we are encouraging others to take steps to make women’s empowerment and gender equality a reality.
As an institution with women in positions of power, we are all too familiar with economic gender inequalities. Globally, women-led organizations receive less than 1% of NGO funding. This is why we need you to join us– to add your voice, energy, capital, and more– and sustain our work advocating for gender equality and empowering women in rainforest communities.