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#WCW: Christabel Zhou

Christabel Zhou is fourth year student at Chinhoyi University of Technology studying Environmental Conservation and Geoinformatics. She was born and raised in Victoria Falls one of the major tourist destinations in Zimbabwe , with a diverse wildlife population.

Question :What inspired you to take conservation sciences as a career path

Answer : I'm a small town girl who grew up seeing elephants parade in the streets until they decided to extend the residential area and that was it. Because I come from a place well known for its wildlife, it stemmed a passion in me to protect these animals from humanity. Its been a tough journey to say the least. Loved ones have been lost due to HWC and crop yields have been affected and this pushes me to want to place human wildlife coexistence measures within our communities. It is by far my greatest drive to want to strike this balance because, in a way, I understand both parties, wildlife and humans.

Question: What are the most exciting moments in your journey so far ?

Answer: The best and most exciting experience of my work is being in the wild. It gives me this sense of belonging and peace.

Question : What is the most challenging moments in your journey so far ?

Answer : The most challenging part about all this is convincing my male counterparts that I'm a worthy team member. What they didn't realize was that, what I couldn't do physically, I would make up for in brains. This is something that is so common amongst women in conservation. The fact that we're not strong enough and that biology in itself is limiting us keeps us from getting certain opportunities. Also, the social norm that women are not supposed to have a voice means that any innovative means that can stem from us are not easily accepted.

Being a female student in conservation I can say is a challenge on its own given that the field is male dominated with a small pool of women to support you , when in need. It for sure can be lonely . Young women have frequently been taken advantage of whilst seeking to make a name for themselves. They have to deal with male sexual impropriety as well as attitude from their female colleagues. It's never easy to decide, but ultimately, one's dignity is what matters.

Even with all this being said we have women like Nyaradzo Hoto who are breaking barriers and proving how strong and efficient women can be. Establishing equality within the field and giving women chances to prove themselves can lead to a new movement. It'll encourage women to take part in Environmental Conservation and employ it across all fields of professionalism. Empowering women and making them realise their strengths and contributions will also encourage them to be big players in this professional denomination. We also have to set up fair communication platforms that allow women to be heard. We, as women, need to set up a strong front and stand for what we believe in. I'm no feminist but I'll fight tooth and nail if that's what it takes to achieve my dreams, if that's what it takes to protect the environment.

Advice to young women

There is a place for everyone in the field of conservation . You don't have to go into the wild in order to be a conservationist. The beauty of environmental Conservation is that it can be applied across all denominations. Wear that pair of stilettos and advocate for sustainable fashion if you have to!

Question : Do you think mentorship will help change the narrative for women in conservation ?

Answer : I believe mentorship is a good thing for young women of our generation. The need to get to the top fast has led to a lot of wrong decisions. However, looking up to other ladies who've established themselves and getting their guidance can lead to a new generation of stronger women who have fused old and new to produce better.

Question : What is your favorite animal

Answer : I don't have a favourite animal because all of them have unique features that I admire. I wish I had an elephant's memory, I wish I was as patient as a cat, I wish I was as cunning as the jackal, I wish I had a dolphin's IQ, I wish I had wings like the pennant winged night jar. That's the beauty of wildlife and I can never make up my mind on what I want. Give me any animal and it would bey favourite.

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