WARRIORS FOR WILDLIFE

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WARRIORS FOR WILDLIFE
SYJ - Winter 2016
WARRIORS FOR WILDLIFE
HEROINES OF M
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PHOTOS & WRITING BY: JENNIFER PALMER
MOTHER EARTH
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Ever since I was a little girl, I always
felt the nourishment and nurturing of ‘Mother
Earth’. She soothes me during life’s wildest
storms and protects my vulnerable heart
when it has been hurt. She guides me
when I feel utterly lost and lifts me when I
convinced that I am shattered. She provides
me with food, water and air. Because of
her, I survive and thrive in the elements
that challenge me each day — emotionally,
physically, mentally and spiritually.
Yet, until recently, I had never given much
thought to the fact that the essence of
‘Mother Earth’ is traditionally referred to
as a female force of nature rather than a
masculine energy. All I knew was, in my
eyes, she had consistently been fierce
yet soft, showed strength and resilience,
exuded wisdom and tenderness, exalted
both power and poise. These beautiful
qualities that are inherently associated with
‘Mother Earth,’ are also the exact same
qualities found in the women who work
tirelessly to protect her.
Be A Voice
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Yet, you have likely never heard of any of them. They are rarely
in mainstream media. They have yet to be well-recognized or
represented at professional conferences and symposiums. They
battle for funding and to have their work promoted and supported
on local, national or international platforms. In fact, according
to a recent United Nations study, women are often “blocked from
access to any start-up capital, credit or other technical support
necessary to be able to grow their businesses”(1). Women fight for
our planet, from a variety of industries, but they face barriers and
are challenged to shift the gender balance.
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Women are pioneering new frontiers in the realm of protecting
‘Mother Earth’ and are bravely facing some of the most devastating
environmental catastrophes of our time.
From biologists to photographers, indigenous leaders to youth
ambassadors, artists to entrepreneurs, women are rising up to
these crucial times together. At Shakti Yogi Journal, we feel the
time has come for the world — for you — to meet these women
visionaries, to help amplify their voice and to empower their efforts!
“The vision of the world that I aspire to must have a value system
that takes into account our ecological and environmental impact.
It would recognize that as a species, we rely on biodiversity, on
balanced ecosystems, and on the Earth’s limited resources for our
survival. It should demand that our impact on those never be
anything other than sustainable.” - Cristina Mittermier, World
renowned Photographer/Author
Nature and Women
Throughout history, women have been linked with a deep sense
of connection to nature; be it the moon, the tides, the cycle of
systems, the flow of water and whirl of the wind. Unique rhythms
of the sea, fusions with the forest, sanctions with the stars — for
centuries women have been connected to the shape, form and
function of our natural environment. Often times thriving best
when united together, the collective power of women may be
exactly what our world needs right now — for peace, preservation
and prosperity.
I realize that these poetic views about an elevated feminine synergy between women and nature may not be universally accepted.
In fact, these very views are often dismissed by certain academics
and feminists. There are many who feel that attempts to make a
direct linkage to women and nature is actually detrimental and oppressive, one that marks yet but another quest for the patriarchal
man to conquer or dominate.
But from my own personal (and deeply feminine) perspective,
I am a woman who is not only deeply and utterly in love with
nature, but I also feel innately wedded to her as a nurturer. I am
surrounded by thousands of other women who also feel a similar,
inexplicable connection and calling.
As Author Susan Griffin so eloquently states, “We are woman and
nature. We are the bird’s eggs. Bird’s eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs
of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are
gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we
are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are
woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak.
But we hear.”
Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her
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HEROINES OF NATURE
Each and every woman — regardless of age, race, religion or region — has a certain strength and light to bring to the world. By collectively joining
these lights on environmental and social justice issues, women become a unified force. Women have overcome endless obstacles and accomplished
phenomenal feats throughout history, and have done so by joining together and building upon the strengths of one another. Together, women
increasingly and creatively approach difficult, global challenges through a variety of lenses.
Wildlife biologists, photographers, indigenous leaders, filmmakers, tourism operators, business owners, youth leaders, conservation scientists,
artists, activists, musicians, dancers, educators, adventurers and explorers: women are creating a collective voice for conservation worldwide.
Many of these women are featured in the brand new initiative Women for Wildlife -- an international movement to support, empower and unite
women and girls around the world who are passionately devoted to wildlife and conservation.
Let us introduce you to just a few of these inspiring warriors who are changing the world!
THE BLACK MAMBAS
RAIMUNDA PUTANI
Anti-Poaching Unit
Country of Origin: South Africa
The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is a mostly female ranger
unit founded in 2013 with the purpose of protecting wildlife in
South Africa, mainly in the regions of the Balule Nature Reserve
and the Greater Kruger National Park. Anti-poaching is a major
need in the area and the region is constantly plagued by rhino
and bush-meat poachers. Apart from antelopes, other endangered
species such as wild dogs and cheetah are also sadly the victims of
snaring.
According to the UN News, by bestowing its Champions of the
Earth award in September 2015 to the Black Mambas, in the Inspiration and Action category, the UN Environment Programme
(UNEP) recognized the “rapid and impressive impact” the unit
has made in combatting poaching and the courage required to
accomplish this task.
“I am not afraid, I know what I am doing and I know why I am
doing it. If you see the poachers you tell them not to try, tell them
we are here and it is they who are in danger. Animals deserve to
live; they have a right to live. Do your part. When demand ends,
the killing will end. Say yes to life. Say no to illegal rhino horn and
elephant ivory.” Leitah Mkhabela, Member of the Black Mamba
Rangers
Photo of Black Mambas:
Photo Credit:
James Sutter
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Indigenous Leader and Woman Shaman
Country of Origin: Brazil
Associação Sociocultural Yawanawa
At age 24, Putani, a young woman from the Amazonian
Tribe of the Yawanawa, received a spiritual calling to
become a shaman. Although traditionally, shamans in the
Amazon have been men, she ventured into isolation in the
forest, studying and learning from the elder shaman Tata.
For over a year, she and the shaman existed in an extreme
spiritual state of connecting to the earth. She went without
drinking plain water, sugar, salt, and ate very little just to
keep the body alive. For subsistence, Putani lived off of
the drink Uni and Amazonian tobacco. According to the
chief of her village, the result was incredible. Putani turned
into a beautiful woman, strong and respected by the very
men who had laughed at her at first. During this time,
Putani received strong shamanic dreams and adorned
elaborate, detailed body and face painting designs that
are still used in Yawanawa festivals today. The success of
Putani broke a taboo in Yawanawa tradition where only
men were allowed to drink Uni and study to be shamans.
Currently, Putani holds a deep connection to nature and
remains serious about her study and practice of Yawanawa
shamanism.
Shivani Bhalla
Photo Credit:
Ewaso Lions
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OLIVIA RIES
Youth Ambassador
Country of Origin: United States
Olivia, 13, is not your average teenager. When Olivia was just 7
years old, she and her brother Carter, started a nonprofit called
One More Generation (OMG). OMG specializes in teaching kids
about such environmental issues as Plastic Pollution and Climate
Change. It was Olivia’s passion for saving animals that inspired
her to launch OMG back in 2009. Olivia works with organizations
around the world to help save endangered species from extinction
and even co-hosted Discovery Education’s “Racing Extinction:
#StartWith1Thing Virtual Field Trip, which was seen live by over
170,000 students.
Through her international travels, Olivia hopes to inspire youth
and adults around the world to get involved and start being the solution to many of the issues facing animals and our environment.
She believes that the more education we give our future leaders
about environmental and animal conservation issues, the better
our chance of finding a solution.
“Anybody can make a difference... if we can, you can too.”
Olivia Ries
SHIVANI BHALLA
Conservation Biologist
Country of Origin: Kenya
Shivani is a fourth generation Kenyan who believes the key to lion
conservation is working in partnership with local communities.
With fewer than 2,000 lions in Kenya, these majestic carnivores
could vanish in the next 20 years if habitat loss and conflict with
humans continues. Shivani founded Ewaso Lions in 2007, a
conservation organization that uses scientific research and community outreach to promote coexistence between people and lions
who share habitats. She has been named an Emerging Explorer
by National Geographic and her commitment to Kenya’s lions has
earned her several awards including “Africa’s Young Women Conservation Biologist of 2009” award by the Society of Conservation
Biology. Most recently, she co-founded PRIDE Lion Conservation
Alliance, an alliance of professional women across Africa leading carnivore conservation projects that focus on saving wildlife
through community efforts.
”The surprising thing about lion conservation is that it’s really
more about people than lions. If we can engage Kenyan’s in conservation, there’s real hope for lions.” Shivani Bhalla
“Don’t have any doubts and be prepared for hurdles. And as much
as possible, take a step back and enjoy the success and what you
achieve.” Shivani Bhalla
CRISTINA MITTERMIER
Photographer, Author
Country of Origin: Mexico
For the past 20 years, Cristina has been working as a
writer, photographer and visual story-teller. In 2005
she founded the International League of Conservation
Photographers (ILCP), a consortium of some of the best
photographers in the world, whose work is dedicated to
visually communicating conservation issues. She often
travels the globe, capturing stunningly powerful visuals and stories. Cristina also spends her time lecturing
and engaging in public speaking about subjects ranging
from conservation science to indigenous cultures. She
has become an innovative proponent for the use of visual
communications tools, such as photojournalism, to help
save our planet.
“To roam the farthest corners of the Earth, where wild
creatures live, is a privilege reserved for an adventurous
handful. But even though most of us may never feel the
chill of Arctic air through the frozen flap of an icy tent,
images can help us understand the urgency many photographers feel to protect wild places. My work is about
building a greater awareness of the responsibility of what
it means to be a human. It is about understanding that the
history of every living thing that has ever existed on this
planet also lives within us. It is about the ethical imperative -the urgent reminder that we are inextricably linked
to all other species on this planet and that we have a duty
to act as the keepers of our fellow life forms.”-Cristina
Mittermier
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Gender and the Environment
For centuries, men have dominated the ownership and rights
to land, water and natural resources. Yet, a recent United Nations Women’s publication stated that “women have consistently
prioritized issues of land, natural resources and environmental
degradation for peacebuilding and recovery when they have been
involved in negotiations”(2). When academic specialists explore
issues of gender and the environment, the results consistently state
that “women play an essential role in the management of natural
resources, including soil, water, forests and energy...and often
have a profound traditional and contemporary knowledge of the
natural world around them”(3).
“Around the world, environmental conditions impact the lives of
women and men in different ways as a result of existing inequalities. Gender roles often create differences in the ways men and
women act in relation to the environment, and in the ways men
and women are enabled or prevented from acting as agents of
environmental change. Everyone, women and men alike, have an
important role to play in moving towards environmental sustainability. Recognizing women as part of the solution is therefore not
only a human right in itself, but also provides a unique opportunity to address the often deep-rooted inequalities in society that
impact negatively on the urban and rural environment.” (GGEO)
Yet, the representation of women in formal negotiations has
historically been poor. A UN Women’s review of 31 major peace
processes between 1992 and 2011 stated, “only four per cent
of signatories have been women, and only 12 out of 585 peace
agreements have referred to women’s needs in rehabilitation and
reconstruction”(4).
There is no question, progress is being made to help amplify the
views and voices of women in regard to our environment. However, given the plight of our planet -- fighting the impact of climate
change, racing the 6th mass extinction, facing heavily polluted and
limited water sources, battling world-wide forest fires and acidifying oceans -- to say the least, we have our challenges cut out for us.
There is hope on the horizon and it is in the form of strong female
leaders. These warriors, visionaries, and heroines of nature face
adversity each and every day, yet relentlessly persevere and show
up with the courage to create change.
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) has recently
released the Global Gender and Environmental Outlook (GGEO)
as a guide to understanding and supporting issues of gender
worldwide.
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Empowering Women
S.T. Coleridge said of nature, “she is the preserver, the treasure of
our joys”. Interestingly, it is not only nature that these words could
be spoken. By promoting and empowering the perseverance of
women, we strive to take one step closer towards a space of hope
and ultimately joy. The feminine connection to nature may be felt
individually or universally, depending on who you talk to. Yet, far
too often, we tend forget that each one of us is connected to nature
and just as we have the ability to destroy her, we also have the ability to create change with whatever skills we have to offer.
We all have a light to shine and together, our collective light
MUST shine if we have any chance at overcoming the plight of our
sweet “Mother Earth”.
So, how can you help?
Identify your strengths — business, art, communications, law,
economics, strategy, policy, science, leadership, fundraising,
marketing, photography, design, music, computer programming,
education, filmmaking, adventuring, storytelling, etc.
directly to find out how you can get involved. See www.womenforwildlife.com for ideas!
Recognize and promote the work of women. Share their successes
and ambitions widely through your online and personal networks.
Travel to new countries and destinations and meet women around
the world who truly stand out in their work and purpose. Ask
them directly how you can help.
Train and mentor women and girls locally, nationally or internationally through workshops, nature excursions, media sessions
and one-on-one meetings to further support women and girls in
your community and beyond.
For more information on how to support women working on
wildlife issues, please contact www.womenforwildlife.com
Connect with women who are making a difference and offer your
skills. Find a project that resonates with you and reach out to them
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