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Happy International Women’s Day!

This year the theme is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It celebrates the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It aligns with the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

In this special International Women’s Day newsletter edition, WWF has a wonderful series celebrating women in all areas of work. Read our Exposure blog on We Need to Talk about Women and our Medium blog on Women Leading Conservation.

In our special edition Africa Focus newsletter, Rose Thuo speaks to three African Women leading in various organisations worldwide (first half) profiles of some of the outstanding women leaders in conservation in WWF Africa offices (including Alice and Rose).

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What challenges do you constantly face as a leader?  
Being a leader and an entrepreneur comes with a great deal of struggle. It is lonely, every day is a fight, ensuring that my team is happy and thriving. Making sure that our clients are served in the best possible way, constantly occupies my mind. Sometimes I am too aware of my limits and vulnerability and sometimes it comes in the way of taking hard decisions.

Who inspires/inspired you? 
I am inspired by a lot of women. Moky Makura is a source of inspiration. She has made it her mission to work on a positive African narrative. The work she does is amazing. Nicky James, Mimi Kalinda, and Vanessa Baard are my sisters in the PR industry. They have been paving the way for other women owning their business. They run successful businesses. They are fierce but kind, hard-working, empathetic, ambitious but humble. To me, they represent what female leadership is all about.

Eloine is also a mentor with the Tony Elumelu Foundation and is part of the Africa Communications Week Board.
What challenges do you constantly face as a leader? 
I am often the first and sometimes the only black woman in high profile positions within predominantly white organisations. 
Who inspires/inspired you? 
The many women I work with are forging a way through to improve their lives. Also, my grandmother lived to be 104 years old. A strong Kenyan woman; a matriarch who instilled the values of honesty and hard work.

Veronica has more than 25 years as a Social Worker, Children's Guardian and, International Child Protection Consultant for the UN and many NGO’s across Africa. She is an Executive Coach & Mentor and also RAF Honorary Air Commodore & Deputy Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire.
Who inspires/inspired you?
I was inspired by my grandmother who did not have an education but worked extremely hard to be financially independent, something extremely difficult to achieve for women those days. She was brave enough as a woman of her time to leave her community to start a farming activity in a foreign village. She was a great leader and an agent of change in her community; she empowered other women to follow in her footsteps when she became successful in her farming activities. 

Advice to young aspiring women?
Find your sense of purpose and stay focused.

Alix, PhD, is passionate about using science to positively impact the lives of individuals and communities. She co-founded the Eastern Africa Network for Women in Basics Sciences now represented and active in 5 Eastern Africa countries (Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Rwanda, Tanzania.)
Women leading in conservation at WWF

Friends, this is the most exciting time of year for me. It is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled up into one day. International Women’s Day is a public holiday in my home country, Uganda. In my youth, there were many firsts for women. Uganda was the first African country to have a woman sitting in the highest office in government, Vice President Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe (1994-2003). Dr Specioza is also a medical surgeon, a woman of many firsts. 
Women have led before, women lead today, women are leading alongside men for the benefit of nature and people. We are all together, making it possible for this planet to thrive. 
Today my global south sister Rose Thuo and I would like to celebrate outstanding WWF women leading in conservation in our world including some WWF beneficiaries. We share these profiles so that they may be known, heard and remembered. 

Alice Ruhweza, Regional Director, WWF Africa

Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, Country Director, WWF Madagascar
Nanie‘s involvement in conservation began in the early 1990s. She joined WWF in 1999 and became WWF Madagascar’s Country Director in 2014. She took a leading role in designing and implementing Madagascar’s protected area network from 2005, which includes 126 protected areas all over the country in 2019. For more than 3 years, she represented Africa at WWF Network Executive Team.

She is one of the most listened-to voices in the Malagasy environmental field, leading WWF Madagascar's integrated approach and putting local communities, nature and sustainability at the heart of conservation.

Domoina Rakotomalala, Mahafaly Landscape Manager, WWF Madagascar
Domoina, a Herpetologist by training, has led WWF’s work in the Mahafaly land and seascape since 2015, which is home to one of the most endangered reptiles in the world, the endemic radiated tortoise.

Domoina is passionate about wildlife and never misses an opportunity to share her passion with others, for instance, she raised a community library on her personal initiative in one of the most remote coastal villages in southwestern Madagascar. 

Watch this video series of #womenleading in Madagascar conservation field here.

Clotilde Ngomba, Country Director, WWF Cameroon 
Clotilde is a conservationist imbued with several decades of experience. Before joining WWF Cameroon as Country Director in February 2019, she worked for 11 years in various capacities in the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry under the Government of Cameroon. 

She also had a stint with the African Development Bank (AfDB) as the Coordinator for the Congo Basin Forest Fund (CBFF), a multi-donor Fund hosted by AfDB and funded by the United Kingdom, Norway and Canada. Clotilde’s negotiation skills and a strong sense of teamwork also resulted in an agreement between WWF and Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs, to jointly promote and protect the individual and collective rights of indigenous and other vulnerable people in the framework of biodiversity conservation.

Perhaps her most outstanding success was in her ability to influence the Cameroon government, through the Ministry of Forest and Wildlife, to make a firm public commitment to fight against violation of rights of indigenous Baka people. 

Judy Kosgei Ekwam, Head of Communication, WWF Kenya 

Judy is a Communications for Development, Advocacy and Content Development Expert, with over 15 years of experience, developing, implementing and supporting impactful in-country, multi-country, regional and international communications, media and advocacy strategies and campaigns, in over 20 countries with over 30 in-country interventions across key regions in Africa as well as The MENA region.

One of the campaigns the cycling enthusiast currently spearheads is the WWF-Kenya led public awareness and advocacy campaign for a Just Road System in Kenya dubbed #MyLane2 -  it is anchored on a non-discrimination principle and safety for ALL without prejudice on Kenyan roads, including vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. The campaign has seen a legislative amendment bill on the Kenya Roads Act, 2007 introduced in the Kenyan parliament to ensure Kenya’s road infrastructure prioritizes Non-Motorised Transport (NMT), which is safe, efficient, healthy and climate-friendly. Judy is finalising her PhD in African Women Studies at the University of Nairobi, holds an M.A. in International Conflict Management from the University of Nairobi, a Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences from Moi University and a Diploma in information studies.

She believes no media platform is too small to stir change, no voice too low, no picture too hazy and no ink too faint. Her Mantra is "If it doesn’t change a life, it is not worth it."

Kudzai Maigurira, People and Culture Manager, WWF Zimbabwe

Kudzai has more than ten year’s experience in Human Resources Management, Operations, partner and donor engagement in the International NGO Sector.  Prior to joining WWF, she was with another International organisation where she was pivotal in the change management process, operations and promoting and influencing good practice within implementing partner organisations in supporting programming.

Kudzai has contributed to the strategy formulation and implementation of the various NGOs she has worked with over the years.

Promise Makowa, Project Finance Analyst, WWF Zimbabwe

She is an accountant by profession and an environmentalist by passion with 15 years’ experience mostly in public and private organisations. She has worked for several international organisations.

She holds a Bachelors  Honours Degree in Accounting, Advanced Diploma in Accounting, a Masters of Business in Administration as well as a certificate in Credit Management.

Promise is very passionate about making an impact in the field that she works in.


Alice Ruhweza, Regional Director, WWF Africa

Alice Ruhweza is a global thought leader with extensive experience working at the intersection of conservation and development in Africa and globally, fostering successful partnerships with a wide range of international institutions. She is currently Africa Region Director for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), where she leads and oversees a regional program comprising 10 countries and over 500 staff.

There she is leading the design of a new conservation framework that brings together work at national, transboundary and global levels, as well as the development of a new system of program quality assurance. She sits on the Board of The CGIAR, Global Ever-Greening Alliance and on the steering committee of the Future Earth Water-Food-Energy Nexus working group.

Before joining WWF, she was Vice President of Programs and Partnerships with Conservation International, where she oversaw the Vital Signs Program, which provides data and diagnostic tools to help inform agricultural decisions and monitor outcomes around the world. She was also the Team Leader and Technical Adviser for the United Nations Development Programme Global Environmental Finance Unit in Africa. In this role, she led a team supporting 44 sub-Saharan African countries to attract and drive public and private finance towards their sustainable development priorities.

Alice is an International Gender Champion, a fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, an Aspen New Voices Senior Fellow, a Henry Arnhold Conservation fellow.

Rose Thuo, Head of Communications & Marketing, Africa, WWF International

Starting her career in journalism, Rose has had the privileges of being the youngest, female, a leader in every role she has held over the years. This is the root of her vision for a world where young women have a big seat at the decision-making table and or create a table where others can sit and be seen and heard.

She’s an award-winning business and radio producer as well as leading teams in groundbreaking public health campaigns.

Rose specializes in forging global partnerships for youth empowerment, gender parity and diversity.


Nachilala Nkombo, Country Director, WWF Zambia

Nachilala is a member of the WWF International Network Executive Team (NET) and was recently elected as the Governance Practice Champion for the WWF NET. The NET engages with and acts on behalf of the Network in making Network-wide decisions affecting over 100 country programs worldwide.

Her leadership expertise covers a range of sustainable development policy areas with the most recent ones where she successfully led partnerships with the Africa Union, the African Development Bank, civil society and governments of Benin, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Mali, Senegal, and Zambia focused on agriculture, nutrition health and land reform and investments.

Nachilala is a global thought leader and a member of the Malabo – Montpellier panel, as well as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2018 global food security report task force and a board member of the Lusaka Water Security Initiative. 

Juliane Zeidler, Country Director, WWF Namibia

“Some 30 years back I started my formal career in Sciences. While already living and working at the Gobabeb Training and Research Center in the Namib desert, I obtained MSc degrees and a PhD in Ecology. I have always been fascinated by learning about people and nature – and conducting research on how people and nature interact has been at the heart of my interest.

A science background, for my work in management, is super helpful and definitely helps me understand our conservation work better.”

Vongai Makamure, Communications Manager, WWF Zimbabwe
She has over 20 years of experience working in communications for international development organisations. She believes in supporting communities to tell their stories and in the use of innovative tools and channels to raise awareness on issues affecting them. Vongai has worked in journalism, communications, and project management in different countries in Africa at national, regional and international levels.

Vongai has provided leadership in various portfolios and contributed to the advancement of organisations and media by building their profiles, credibility and networks, supporting partnerships and resource mobilization to meet the needs of affected communities.  In her current role, she values collaboration and engagement with different partners on the importance of conserving the environment and living in harmony with nature.

She especially believes in the potential of the youth and believes they play a critical role in coming up with unique messages and ways to protect our planet. 

Nancy Githaiga, Head of Conservation Programmes, WWF Kenya 
Nancy is a scientist and natural resource governance and management expert, who is passionate about making inter and intragenerational equity a reality. She is the Head of Conservation Programmes at WWF-Kenya.

For over 15 years she has made her contribution to the management of natural resources and is keen on driving systemic change through policy influencing and promoting Community-Based Natural Resources Governance driven by her belief that sustainable management of natural resources is only possible when communities, who are the custodians and greatest stewards of natural capital, own and drive change. She believes that real development happens when people and especially the most marginalized can address the challenges that beset them.

Her passion for environmental stewardship is four-pronged; social equity, community benefit, economic impact, and environmental protection. Cognizant that there is a need for a different level of solutions to address current environmental challenges, Nancy is committed to working with the younger generation,  exploring innovative and impactful solutions. Nancy has Graduate Education in Hydrology (PGD) and in Climate Change both from the University of Nairobi. She received her BSc from Kenyatta University.

Her mantra is “I am committed to ensuring I return the earth to my grandchildren in a better state.”

Irene Mwaura, Project officer-climate change and energy at WWF Kenya

Her experience spans over six years. She supports communities to access energy for household and productive use with a particular focus on the agriculture and fisheries sectors, household lighting and cooking and climate change adaptation. She also supports the capacity strengthening of stakeholders such as local CSOs and youth so as to equip them with skills to influence a positive change in the climate and energy sectors.

She has supported the setting up of Clean Energy Village Initiatives in Kwale with over 500households benefiting from lighting and cooking solutions. She has also contributed to Human-Wildlife Conflict mitigation using solar-powered predator deterrent lights in Kajiado and Narok counties with local partners whereby 226 Bomas have benefitted through a co-financing model and they have reported zero predation.

Irene is passionate about youth engagement and is supporting, through other programs, youth engagement as the ‘now and future’ conservation leaders.

Sofia Kabibi, Project Assistant, Energy and Climate change, WWF Kenya 

“My work entails implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, in Kenya’s  Coastal Kenya, to ensure that communities access affordable reliable and clean energy technologies. I am passionate about what I do because energy plays an integral role in any developmental agenda.

Energy access is so vital that it draws the line on issues such as proper health care, availability of food, natural resources thriving and generally human-wellbeing. I work in some of the poorest rural communities’ where access to modern, clean and efficient cooking technologies remains a mirage, the communities are forced to unsustainably utilize firewood from natural forests to cater for their daily household needs using a three-stoned cookstove that not only poses a threat to our forests but also exposes women and children to indoor air pollution.

For the fisher-folks and rural farmers access to energy directly affects how their daily income will be reflected, post-harvest loss is a major bottle-neck in the enhancement of livelihoods for them because the majority lack proper cold- storage technologies.

I am happy when I see children in off-grid islands being able to compete with other students for a better education because they have solar-powered lights in their schools. It is about the fisher-folk who can now afford basic needs for their children because they record profits from the sale of fish at competitive prices due to efficient cold storage facilities."


Jennifer Hacking, Conservation Director, WWF Democratic Republic of Congo

Jennifer, a Canadian, has more than 20 years of experience in various sectors including government, industry, academia and not-for-profit organizations. She has a strong background in conservation planning, natural resource management, forestry operations, research, and environmental sciences education. Jennifer has worked in community-based natural resources management, conservation research and education, and forest restoration, managing programmes, people, and resources for organizations based in Indonesia, Madagascar, Cameroon and Canada.

Working overseas helped her to acquire strong skills in supporting community capacity building and engaging with NGOs, partners, and government officials to advance forest restoration and sustainable use objectives. Her strengths are in creative problem-solving with an excellent grasp of long term strategic design.  

Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, Ontario, and a Master's degree in forestry from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. She is the mother of two children.

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Today’s annual International Women’s Day Google Doodle takes a journey through a series of firsts in women’s history—highlighting female pioneers who have challenged the status quo and paved the way in education, civil rights, science, art, and so much more. Specifically, we pay homage to these SHEroes by depicting the hands that have opened the doors for generations of women. In honor of the trailblazers of the past, present, and future.
Copyright © *| WWF ROA |  International Women's Day 2021
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