Women for Conservation empowers and partners with women around the globe to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats.
Women for Conservation, founded in 2004 by Sara Ines 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 prevent deforestation, fuel-efficient stoves were provided to families, reducing 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 economically empowered women by encouraging them 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. Funds from sales are used to pay a fair wage to women participating in the program.
Born in 1973 with indigenous ancestry, Sara Ines Lara grew up in a small village in the Andes of Colombia. Throughout her childhood, Sara’s guiding light and inspiration was her mother, a woman highly respected in the local communities for her involvement with marginalized women. Sadly, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 37 and died several years later. Following this tragedy, Sara was subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse from her father.
Sara found in nature an indescribable healing to her wounds and used it as a therapeutic tool to recover from childhood trauma. In 2003, following her passion for nature and wildlife conservation, she became Executive Director of Fundación ProAves, a leading conservation organization in Colombia. Under her leadership, the organization established and managed 17 nature reserves to save endangered species. In 2004, Sara combined her love of nature with her drive to empower women and started the initiative Women for Conservation. This program quickly spread to communities neighboring ProAves’ nature reserves, where local women learned about the importance of safeguarding their natural environments. With this knowledge, they were motivated to develop projects that reduced deforestation, such as producing eco-friendly artisan products and reducing their usage of wood-fueled stoves.
Sara continued to develop the Women for Conservation program as Vice President of International Programs at American Bird Conservancy and then at Permian Global. Sara’s principal interests include empowering women, preventing species extinction, safeguarding tropical habitat, and alleviating poverty. It is her life mission to protect the natural world so that we all may have the opportunity to heal through nature. Sara has been recognized as One in a Hundred Great Latin American Women by Billiken Magazin, read more about it here.
We empower women and girls to lead in the field of conservation by providing them with environmental education, resources to implement projects, and access to a network of professional scientists and advisers.
Environmental Education and Workshops
To yield the greatest impact, our efforts are concentrated on rural communities near high biodiversity areas in the tropics. There, we host workshops with local women to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the region’s endangered species and habitats, with the intention of increasing the active involvement of these women in nature conservation. Our workshops include topics such as effective natural resource management, restoration and reforestation of habitat with native species, creation of protected areas, sustainable practices in agriculture and permaculture, waste reduction and recycling, as well as energy efficiency through solar and other energy alternatives.
With the knowledge gained from our workshops, women lead their communities to plan and implement key conservation projects. In addition to preserving forests and restoring native habitats to save endangered wildlife from extinction, these women strive to prevent major threats to vulnerable species, such as prohibiting their community from hunting rare bird species or collecting eggs.
To further ensure their success as effective guardians for nature and to help build their careers in the field of conservation, we provide additional seminars that introduce women to vital scientific skills, tools, and training.
An Alliance of Women for Conservation
We facilitate local, national and global connections among women with the aim of creating concrete action for the protection of endangered species. On a local level, we unite groups of women to lead conservation projects in their own communities. On a national and global level, we bring women together to exchange stories about challenges they have faced and solutions they have encountered to improve these programs. Simultaneously, we introduce project leaders in rural communities to professional scientists, policy makers, and organizations to share their knowledge, skills, and support.
Lacking economic opportunities, many rural communities turn to agriculture, cattle ranching, logging and other activities that are detrimental to the environment and local biodiversity.
As an eco-friendly alternative, Women for Conservation trains women in sustainable livelihoods, such as working as nature guides for ecotourism and forest guards for nature reserves. Additionally, women learn trades that reduce demand on natural resources, like producing environmentally sustainable jewelry, coffee, and artisan crafts. These activities also serve to financially empower women, strengthen their independence and improve the lives of their families.
One of the greatest threats to conservation is a growing human population, which places excessive demands on natural resources that our Earth is unable to sustain. During the past century, human population growth suddenly exploded – today, more than 7.5 billion people inhabit the planet. In striking contrast, prior to the 1800s, the human population consistently remained below one billion for 10,000+ years. This recent extraordinary growth, paired with modern tendencies for over-consumption, has placed the future of our planet at great peril.
A key solution to this dilemma is empowering women with greater access to voluntary family planning, which is crucial to both conservation and the overall well-being of society. Public health studies have revealed that when communities are given access to birth control and contraceptives, children are better nourished and educated, mothers are healthier, and family wealth increases. Despite these important benefits, women in many rural communities around the world lack access to these vital resources.
An essential initiative of Women for Conservation is to provide these communities with basic healthcare services, including access to birth control and family planning information.