Annually on 9 August South Africa celebrates Women’s Day – part of a month dedicated to the strength and resilience of women and their contribution to society. We thought this a particularly fitting time to share a feature on our ‘Girls in Conservation’ programme and celebrate the group of girls who completed the programme this year.
One of the Cape Leopard Trust Education project aims is to connect people, especially the youth, to nature and to instil an attitude of reverence and respect for the natural world.
One important avenue for achieving this is ‘Girls in Conservation’ – a multi-faceted project focused on high school girls from rural communities within the leopard’s range in the Western Cape. Through this hands-on programme, learners get to experience the natural environment and are introduced to career possibilities within the Green Skills sector.
Sixteen female learners from four schools in Grabouw and Villiersdorp were admitted to the 2022 programme via an application process. In January 2022, the group attended a 5-day camp near Franschhoek, where each day was dedicated to a different field in the green economy – including wildlife monitoring, husbandry and rehabilitation; entomology, taxonomy and marine biology; and sustainable food production.
The next phase of the programme was a number of ‘service assignments’, where the learners were encouraged to give back to their communities. Each group of four learners (one from each school) had to develop and implement three outreach projects under the CLT educators’ guidance.
The first assignment was about knowledge-sharing, and each group prepared a presentation about all the career options they were exposed to during the project, using flyers, worksheets, notes etc., collected during their 5-day camp. They could share with their peers which subjects are important for which careers, what career paths, study opportunities, volunteering and internship programmes are available, and generally what they have learned from their experience.
The second assignment was to prepare for a book reading and book distribution at early childhood development centres (ECDs) in their communities. The girls put on animated and lively presentations of the conservation-themed CLT children’s story ‘Footprints in the Fynbos’ to the young children, complete with face masks representing the characters! They also distributed 200 books in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa to these ECD centres.
For the final assignment, each group had to plan a ‘Snare Aware’ workshop at their schools and invite the CLT conservation officer to present the workshop to their invited classmates. During these workshops, they handed out posters and information sheets to create awareness around this illegal hunting method that is often practised around their communities, and that presents a major threat to biodiversity.
The service assignment activities were very well received by the communities and the groups did an outstanding job on their assignments – our educators were amazed at the level of understanding and growth shown by the girls. On completion of all the assignments, an informal award ceremony was held to celebrate these young “Eco Ambassadors” after successfully completing the Girls in Conservation programme. It was endearing to see the whole group coming together again to rekindle friendships made on the camp many months prior, and to excitedly discuss all they have learnt along the way.
The CLT Education team is excited about these girls’ futures and to see how they will contribute to the conservation of nature and biodiversity in their own unique ways. Their sincerest appreciation goes to the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy and Papoose Conservation Wildlife Foundation for generously supporting this programme in 2022.
- View more images at Cape Leopard Trust.