Embracing Equality in Conservation - SOS – Sumatran Orangutan Society
Embracing Equality in Conservation

This International Women's Day we wanted to mark the theme of #EmbraceEquity by talking about gender and conservation.

At SOS , we are extremely proud to be a woman-led organisation with our CEO, Helen Buckland, having been at the helm for over 15 years. During this time, Helen has collaborated with our frontline conservation partners in Sumatra to help protect, connect and rewild Sumatra’s globally important rainforests so that rare Sumatran orangutans can thrive. 

However, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), women make up only 38% of the workforce in the environmental sector globally. In the conservation science field, women represent only about 24% of the workforce, with even lower percentages in some sub-fields like wildlife management and forestry. 

This is something that was recently highlighted by Saphira, who works with our frontline partner organisation, TaHuKah.

Chairuna Saphira, Director of Operations and Finance, TaHuKah

“I want to see more women involved in conservation. I wish our society would understand that taking care of nature is not men’s responsibility, but a human responsibility. I wish we were not recognised as stereotypically women, but as human beings.”

- Chairuna Saphira, Director of Operations and Finance, TaHuKah

Positively addressing the gender gap in conservation jobs is essential to create more diverse and effective conservation organisations and practices. By promoting gender equality and providing opportunities for women to enter and advance in conservation careers, we can help to ensure that conservation efforts benefit from the full range of talents, expertise, and perspectives.

At SOS, not only is 50% of our Trustee Board made up of women, our expert programme team is also inclusive of highly impressive women. 

For example, SOS’ Social Forestry Expert, Umi Purnamasari, is instrumental in supporting SOS to deliver its vision for resilient, connected landscapes in West Toba and Batang Toru. Her work helps our partners to understand how communities in Sumatra work as a whole. Umi’s work focuses on community development, community-based conservation, sustainable livelihood optimisation, and community-based business establishment.

Equity is important for the communities we support in Sumatra, as well.  While Indonesia has made significant economic and social progress in recent years, it still faces many challenges related to poverty, inequality, and development.

In developing countries, women are often more involved in natural resource management and have important roles to play in conservation efforts. However, due to cultural differences, they are often excluded from decision-making processes and leadership positions in conservation organisations. Women often have deep knowledge of traditional ecological practices and are often responsible for the care and management of natural resources in their communities, such as water, forests, and fisheries. Women also tend to play a vital role in food production and distribution, as well as in the livelihoods of rural communities.

When women are excluded from frontline conservation activity, we risk missing out on their valuable knowledge and expertise, which can lead to ineffective or unsustainable conservation policies and practices.

Including women in conservation efforts in Indonesia is essential to promote  sustainable and equitable natural resource management, as well as to help address gender inequality, and achieve broader social and environmental goals.

This International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate the theme of #EmbraceEquity by celebrating what we have achieved in our teams and through our programme delivery to value the contributions of women to conservation efforts.  By continuing to centre equity in our operations and our programmes, by encouraging women’s full participation and supporting their empowerment, we can help to create more effective and sustainable conservation policies and practices, so that communities and forests can thrive, alongside rare, wild orangutans.

Find out more about our team at SOS here.

An adult sumatran orangutan

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