Women for Conservation, founded in 2004 by Sara Lara, has directly benefited and empowered over 1,000 women by providing conservation education, environmentally sustainable economic opportunities, and access to health clinics and family planning. Since it was established, the organization has partnered with Fundación ProAves in Colombia to develop projects with women in rural communities at five project sites, including the nature reserves of El Dorado, El Jaguar, Loros Andinos, Cerulean Warbler, and Paujil. Involving women in the conservation of these reserves has successfully preserved natural resources while significantly reducing threats to endangered species.
As part of its earliest programs, Women for Conservation designed environmental education programs to raise awareness about endangered species and their habitats, in collaboration with local mothers and their children. To reduce deforestation, gas stoves were provided to families, replacing the need to cook with firewood. Additionally, the initiative launched reproductive health campaigns and workshops that taught sexual education and distributed contraceptives to benefit women and their families.
Importantly, the organization encouraged groups of women to establish eco-friendly microenterprises that produced wildlife-friendly artisan crafts for sale, which helped to steer families away from earning a living through destructive practices such as logging, ranching, hunting, and coca production. The pilot program was made possible with support from American Bird Conservancy and Audubon Naturalist Society; it has trained women from five villages to sustainably use natural resources for the development of several products, such as creating elegant jewelry from seeds and tagua nuts (otherwise known as “vegetable ivory”). The finished products are displayed and sold at shops in Colombia located at the previously mentioned nature reserves. To market and promote these goods in the international market, Amparo Crafts was established in the UK in 2009. As a result, sales have increased considerably, and the funds are used to pay a fair wage to women participating in the program.