How Women Play a Special Role in Increasing Protection for Snow Leopards
Last fall, we helped 11 women from Pakistan’s rural Chitral district attend a three-week certificate course in animal husbandry and livestock vaccination at one of the country’s leading universities.
In March, we held a workshop to help 16 women from two remote villages in northern India develop protocols for the first-ever pilot of our Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program in the Indian Himalayas.
From India to Pakistan, and Mongolia to Kyrgyzstan, we’re blazing new trails aimed at engaging more women in snow leopard conservation.
Women Tend to Have More Negative Attitudes Toward Snow Leopards
‘There is a global pattern,’ says Dr. Charu Mishra, Director of Science and Conservation, ‘that in communities living with carnivores, women tend to view the carnivores as more of a threat than men.’ Charu admits that the reasons for this are not entirely clear, but the pattern seems to make sense.
In most of the communities we work with, women run the family, take care of the children, and have important and complementary roles caring for livestock alongside men. It’s reasonable to assume that when livestock are lost, women feel it as a blow to family income and their ability to care for family well-being.
But we’re banking on the opposite being true as well: that by promoting snow leopard conservation among women we can foster peaceful co-existence between people and snow leopards overall. ‘If attitudes can change with women,’ Charu points out, ‘they pass that change on to their children and ultimately affect the whole family.”
In Pakistan, the women health workers are already becoming community leaders. They are working alongside men to treat animals for our livestock vaccination program, which inoculates animals and creates an economic buffer against snow leopard depredation. They are also creating small women’s circles aimed at raising greater appreciation for snow leopards among the community’s wider female population.
In India, the women who met in March to jumpstart their Snow Leopard Enterprises program have now moved on to train the women of their villages on new handicraft skills and patterns. This year we hope to place our first product orders with two women’s groups in India, and provide our first handicraft payments–a major step towards securing their support for snow leopard conservation.
Turning Women Into Conservation Leaders
‘Snow Leopard Enterprises and livestock vaccination are a great foundation,’ says Executive Director Brad Rutherford, ‘they help women and families feel economically secure so they can move forward with conservation.’ And this is just the beginning. Both Charu and Brad envision more training for men and women community leaders across important snow leopard landscapes to help them become even stronger advocates for the cats.
‘These women can speak out for snow leopards in a way that reaches deep into the community,’ adds Brad, ‘they know the challenges other women face and can help find solutions. That’s what we’re most excited about—the opportunity to make lasting and positive change.’
Pakistan training was funded by U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Ambassador’s Fund. Our range-country programs are being supported by a partnership award from Fondation Segré and the Whitley Fund for Nature.