Women Changing the Face of Conservation

Women play a vital role in all aspects of snow leopard conservation, from being the matriarchs of herding communities, to participating in our Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program, to advocacy and research. The impact women have on the protection of this species is immeasurable. We have gathered first hand accounts from the field to share their experiences working in snow leopard conservation.

Peiyun’s Persistence
Peiyun and colleagues setting up remote sensing cameras in China. Photo courtesy of ShanShui

“I was questioned a lot when I first started my position as Snow Leopard Project Coordinator in Qinghai, China. Some people thought I had no Tibetan Plateau experience; some people thought the mountain conditions were too hard for a woman. The local people thought I might act like an ‘expert’ who only sat behind their desk and would ask them to do all the fieldwork. The only way I could gain their confidence was to work alongside them. I insisted on climbing all the mountains to set up camera traps. I tried my best to hike as fast as the rangers, and eventually I was accepted as a woman doing fieldwork. Now young women across the areas I work in tell us that they would love to accompany the teams and help us with camera trapping efforts to monitor snow leopards. We also see that they are helping rangers set up camera traps. My wish is for these young women to be accepted and work officially as National Park Rangers or snow leopard monitors in the future.”

– As told by Peiyun, Snow Leopard Project Coordinator, ShanShui, SLT China Partner.

Dreams come true
Snow Leopard Enterprise participants in Pakistan creating expertly crafted textiles, Photo courtesy of SLF Pakistan

“In most conservative societies there are few opportunities for women to excel in their relevant field and this was very true for Miss Mubarak Nisa. Although she was educated and had some embroidery skills, she never had the chance to use these skills professionally. Her family was also facing many financial problems. She was married, but the sole income provided by her husband was too small to support the entire family. As a mother, she wanted the best quality education for her children. She also dreamed of sending her daughter to university. Concerns about sending her children to school and university would trouble her every day.

One day she discovered the Snow Leopard Enterprise program through Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan. Snow Leopard Enterprises supports women in making handmade products from the raw wool of their livestock, and provides the opportunity to sell these products on national and international markets. Additional snow leopard conservation education and outreach activities are also built into the program. As an enthusiastic and skilled artisan, Miss Mubarak Nisa joined the program and started working on a set of designs. Because of her zeal and commitment, she excelled in the work and was quickly promoted as the program’s Center Coordinator. In this new position, she could support her family financially and could even afford to send her daughter to university. Dreams really do come true!

Currently, she works as a Master Trainer and enables other women to support their families. She teaches women the art of designing local handicrafts and remains a strong advocate of snow leopard conservation.”

– As narrated by Mubarak Nisa, Snow Leopard Enterprise worker, Snow Leopard Foundation, SLT Pakistan Partner.

Why I love what I do
Gathering of women in Ladakh, India. Photo courtesy of SLT

“When I started working for the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation Kyrgyzstan (SLT’s Kyrgyzstan partner), I had the opportunity to visit the SLT team working in India. I traveled to Leh, Ladakh located high up in the Himalayas. The goal of the trip was to learn skills on how to implement a snow leopard education program for young people. The education program aims to boost kids’ knowledge about the fragile ecosystem they live in through games and playful learning exercises.

The experience was very interesting as we met local people and monks that worked in snow leopard conservation, and learned about their way of life. We also had the chance to observe ibex, the snow leopard’s main prey, from the valleys. I learned so many things and experienced a different way of life. Even though I am from Kyrgyzstan, I was told that everybody would think I was from the Ladakh region. It made me think back to our history and Genghis Khan. In the past, many Central Asian countries were very much connected. I was fascinated to learn that in Ladakh people use the same phrase as they do in Kyrgyzstan when offering a guest some tea. This made me realize how much we are still all very much connected and alike. Moreover, I became increasingly aware that snow leopards across these two countries face similar threats and conservation opportunities.

We travelled to very remote areas⁠, areas that had few livelihood opportunities. This made me value even more the work that we are doing for local communities across India and Kyrgyzstan. Across both countries, and other range snow leopard countries, we work hard to provide these remote areas with sustainable livelihood opportunities. We do this so that humans and snow leopards can co-exist more peacefully into the future. This is why I love what I do.”

– As told by Venera, Program Assistant of the Snow Leopard Foundation, SLT Kyrgyzstan Partner.

Thanks to the efforts of the intrepid women who have dedicated their time and energy to the conservation of snow leopards, we are able to connect with communities, gather stories, and ultimately increase protections for the cats. These women continue to perform this work day in and day out, and are making great advances in the field.
You can read more stories and see more photos on our Instagram page by following @snowleopardtrust.

Acknowledgements:
Stories collected and edited by Snow Leopard Trust’s Regional Ecologist, Justine Shanti Alexander. Story contributors include, Peiyun, Snow Leopard Project Coordinator, ShanShui, SLT China Partner; Mubarak Nisa, Snow Leopard Enterprise worker, Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, SLT Pakistan Partner; and Venera, Program Assistant of the Snow Leopard Foundation, SLT Kyrgyzstan Partner.

2 Comments

  1. This is an incredible post! What a great variety of perspectives highlighting how impactful Snow Leopard Trust’s work is not only in conservation but in community and empowerment. Wonderful post.

    1. Yes, very inspiring stories of supporting the whole eco-social system by supporting the snow leopards! 🐆 I have been a supporter for awhile, but this makes me even more proud!

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