Matriarchal motivation


The female voice is not lost at Born Free, or in conservation, says Born Free’s Sarah Locke

Elephants have long understood the importance of the female voice. Their families are led by matriarchs and a single female will lead the herd to fertile pastures and water sources. She’ll then pass her skills and knowledge onto younger generations, enabling herds in different locations to make best use of their surroundings.  

The female voice is not lost at Born Free. We’ve listened to our elephantine ambassadors and are led by our very own matriarch – Virginia McKenna OBE, a leading voice of Compassionate Conservation and our Co-Founder and Trustee. This year we are launching Virginia’s Circle of Compassion, a group of highly successful and multi-talented women intent on protecting our natural world. 

Our Head of Conservation, Dr Liz Greengrass, has a team of conservationists based in the UK, who are all, coincidentally, women too. And it’s Laura Gosset who heads up our education department.

Indeed, women in the world of conservation are showing us the way! As a Conservation Biology Masters student myself, my classroom of around 40 students is almost entirely female. 

In the field, take Poonam Dhanwatey, one of our Wildlife Heroes. She is the Co-Founder of the Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT), a partner in Born Free’s Living With Tigers programme. Poonam took an unusual route to wildlife conservation herself, quitting her job in interior design and listening to her desire to protect tigers and address the conflict they face with human populations. TRACT has trained more than 1,300 youths and introduced systems in rural Indian communities to improve local livelihoods – a prime example of diversity, where both female and young voices are listened to, in order to find solutions for wildlife and people in the face of conflict!

Of course, equality and prejudice are prevalent in so many countries still, including key locations of Born Free’s work. This of course, doesn’t even begin to cover the thousands of girls and women in rural communities who cannot attend school every month for the lack of access to sanitation products – there’s still so much room for improvement! However, it’s great to see Born Free leading the way to encourage women and the diversity of talent that we need to collectively address society’s most pressing environmental challenges.