Starting from the story of Jolie, ranger at the Virunga National Park, the session will present the heroic role of women as protectors of the park's most endangered species. Women's opportunities in the region are severely restricted. Since 2013 the Park recruits women to join the highly professional force of forest rangers. But this is not all!
The key lesson is that by protecting wildlife the rangers have contributed to securing peace and allowed economic development in this very unstable region. More stability means more investments and more opportunities for women. The Park has developed programs that focus on investment in sustainable energy, agro-business and tourism, moving beyond traditional approaches to conservation to create jobs and improve the daily life of local communities.
- Virunga’s courageous women rangers and their male colleagues are literally on the front line, defending against murderous armed rebels.
- Virunga represents the unstable division in eastern Congo between sustainable wealth generated through biodiversity and attempted violent extraction.
- The government and Virunga Park leaders use rangers to provide security to its diverse wildlife and resources.
- The struggle is to secure Virunga as a durable example of sustainable conservation and smart economic policies triumphing over human greed.
Fighting to keep Virunga National Park free from rebel violence, 725 park rangers face a daunting challenge to keep its rich diversity of wildlife safe from traffickers and poachers and its biodiversity intact.
Two years ago Jolie Kavugho, a proud and intense woman, decided to become a ranger. She had heard over the local radio about positions opening up for women. Her father was also a ranger until he was killed some years ago by rebels.
Kavugho, one of 26 women rangers at Virunga, or about 5 % of the total, lost three of her male colleagues who were killed in April. Their widows sat nearby as she spoke.
As the largest and oldest national park in eastern Congo, Virunga offers its natural riches to visitors: tourists, conservationists and others hoping to protect its hidden and fragile exposed wealth for the 4 million people who live there and nearby and the estimated 20,000 who are directly employed.
The rebels and their paymasters, gas companies and others, come to
Women rangers lead by example in securing new sources of opportunities, inspiration and pride for women not only in eastern Congo, but everywhere.