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#WCW : Dr. Annabel Banda

By Tapiwa Prosper Chimbadzwa

Editor's Note

Earning a Ph.D. degree is a big stepping stone towards a brighter future. Congratulations Dr. A. Banda on achieving your PhD. You left no stone unturned in these years.

From the Wildlife Conservation Action team, we would like to say congratulations on your hard-earned Doctorate degree! May this be the stepping stone of your future endeavors!

Who is Annabel ?

Annabel Banda holds Bachelor of Science Honors Degree in Biology (UZ), Master of Science in Tropical Entomology (UZ), and a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology and Environment (CUT). She has been a teacher for 5 years at Swazi High School and now she is a lecturer at Gwanda State University, Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe. Coming from a rural background where she had to go an extra mile to acquire basic education, she committed herself into building young people for a better future. She has overcome numerous obstacles to get to where she is now, including being a woman in a male-dominated sector and struggling to make ends meet. Annabel is one person who likes challenging the narratives and make sure that she sees change. She doesn’t want to be limited by place of origin but rather strive to achieve her personal goals.

Through tenacity, tolerance, and dedication, I will accomplish something I've always wanted to do: leave a legacy.

Question: How does it feel to be a female PhD holder ?

Answer : The journey has not been easy, so I am ecstatic to have received the PHD. It feels like a young child with brand-new sneakers who is eager to test their limits and see how far they can push me. I'm really focused on boosting my self-confidence as a woman and making sure I get rid of self-doubt. I still feel inadequate, though, given my degree of expertise in the sciences. As dismal as it may sound, having a PHD is not the end goal; therefore, you must continue to grow. Truly speaking I cant stop smiling and saying to myself I did it

Question: What are the challenges and opportunities in the academia and Conservation as a career ?

Answer : The major hindrance is not having a shoulder to rest on in the conservation industry, especially as a young woman. When I finished my MSc, I really wanted to publish the research, but my supervisors weren't willing or interested, thus I was unable to. However, since I am getting to know people, going the PHD path has opened up a world of options. The hurdles in academia and conservation as a career are numerous, but it takes someone with an open mind to get through them and identify their niche before pursuing it.Young people have a wide range of research topics to choose from, and there are numerous research scholarships available; all it takes is the confidence to apply.

Question : How did you manage between social roles, work and school ?

Answer : Without the help of others, I would not have been where I am now since balancing employment, social life, and education was a tremendously difficult undertaking. I appreciate having a supervisor like Prof. E Gandiwa who helped me along the way. To avoid the strain, I once blocked him from my WhatsApp, but he never lost patience with me. I was able to get through it because there were people who could relate to my needs. I also want to thank my mother and Swazi High School Headmaster Mr. A Msipah for supporting me during this difficult period.

Question: What advice would you give to a young woman thinking of pursuing conservation as a career ?

Answer: Women are nurturing due to their upbringing, making them an important component of conservation. If more young women get involved in the conservation field, I think we'll see more encouraging developments. There is a need to eliminate bias, particularly in the male-dominated field of conservation. As young women you need to step up , take on the challenge and prove that women are capable. I am urging women to take this area of study seriously since it helps to preserve not just the biodiversity but also the human race as a whole and our African identity. There are hurdles in every career, but as a person, you must be prepared to jump in and overcome them. Patience, perseverance, and commitment will pay off. Never allow your situation limit your potential; instead, take up the challenge.

Question: Do you think a mentorship program will encourage more women to take conservation as a career?

Answer : Yes it is very important , because young people can manage their career pathways and realize their ambitions with the help of mentorship. Through guidance and the sharing of experiences, this can be accomplished to a considerable extent. I think it's a great idea for women to be mentored by other women, but I also think there should be an opportunity for successful men to spend mentoring young women in the conservation sector. Striking a balance is crucial if we want to boost young women's interest in pursuing careers . Most importantly, the program needs to be a safety nest to prevent mentors, both male and female, from abusing these young ladies.

Question : Would you take up time to mentor young woman in conservation ?

Answer: Yes with so much pleasure, for instance, I already work as a mentor for certain young scientists. I constantly try to offer all I can in order to help young people achieve their goals. Only if they are prepared to travel the path with me am I willing to accept additional young people.

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