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#WCW : The Story of Palloma Pachiti-Mutemi


Palloma Pachiti-Mutemi is the Center Director at the Sebakwe Conservation Education Center. Her primary responsibilities revolve around managing and overseeing the center’s daily operations, apart from that she is also heavily active in conservation education and community development work. Palloma develops proposals pertaining to the field of conservation education, oversees projects, and develops resource materials including training for trainer programs resources, and other initiatives to empower individuals with regard to the subject. Additionally, she represents Zimbabwe as the Pace Africa Champion for the UK-based Tusk organization's conservation education project in Africa.

Question : What inspires and motivates you to do your job ?

Answer: I wouldn't say that one person or people are the source of my inspiration; instead, I draw inspiration and motivation from a variety of sources. Situations and the desire to see change inspire me. I'll briefly describe my background. In college, I pursued natural science. However, after graduating and working in that field for a while, I became inspired by many social dynamics that were influencing many aspects of my natural science-related work. I was then motivated to try to understand more about the dynamics surrounding why people live the way they do and why they make the decisions that they do, which motivated me to change from natural science. So my inspiration really comes from what I envision a situation to be, what I envision a community, a school, and what I envision the world to be. I have come to realize that it's easier for me to get continuous inspiration from what is around me than from a person because if I had been inspired by someone to do natural science for example that changed after about 10 years of doing that work into something else.

Question: How do you balance your work and social life?

Answer: I try to make my work days count rather than count the days of work. I'm an avid bird watcher for example and I always try to make sure that when I have a group at the center and we have a program there's always a bird-watching activity involved so I'll be working at the same time doing something which is my passion. There may be times when I selfishly take time to do the things that I enjoy as an individual so that I can replenish and recharge and be able to get back to work. I have somehow managed to blur the lines between work and social life most of the time I encourage my family to spend time in nature areas. That way I will be able to spend time with family at the same time working.

Question: What are the challenges being faced by women in conservation and a

possible solution?

Answer: I am aware that there are numerous obstacles facing women generally and women in conservation especially, but based on my personal experiences, I believe that the barriers come from within. This challenge exists, but there are so many inspirational and pioneering women in conservation who have overcome it. Therefore, I actually believe that this challenge goes back to the self and that what can be done is being inspired by the fact that this is not a difficult thing to do because someone else has already done it. I am motivated by women all over the world who have broken through so many boundaries and societal expectations and they have demonstrated that goals and dreams can be achieved.

Question: What are the most exciting and most challenging experiences of your job?

Answer: Like I mentioned earlier most of my work revolves around working with people working with schools making with teachers and communities and most of the goals regards the work that we do is to try and build or impact skills and knowledge in people towards positive behavior change you know the environment you find that most of the challenges we face such as habitat distraction, be it poaching, waste all these somehow can be linked to human activity so it is quite exciting for me to be able to work with a group of people and be able to note positive behavior change.

Behavior change is very difficult to measure and it's also very difficult to achieve as the old saying goes you can't teach an old dog new tricks so when you do teach an old dog new tricks, I find that very exciting. Many people do not want to change their behavior and attitude, and its quite challenging to try and understand why people do not do what they know is the right thing to do, most of the challenges that we face in my work.It does not really imply that people are not aware or people don't have enough knowledge and enough skills, there are other driving factors which lead them to disregard the important knowledge that they know.

Advice to aspiring conservationists

If you start with yourself if you believe it then, go for it you're your own critic. We can be patient with everyone but I think we need to be patient even with ourselves. My advice is if we are able to appreciate effort or progress and recognize it at a very small level then I think we've done a very good thing as for me if I teach a group of 20 learners or if I talk to 100 people in a community and only one child goes home humming to a conversation song that I taught them then I see that as progress. We are faced with a lot of global-themed challenges such as climate change, habitat destruction, and endangered species everywhere. I mean most of those things the problems are magnified to such a level that it looks like with a very big task ahead of us. But I've learned that whilst it's global we can act local, let's do what we can at our level. Let's plan to appreciate the little bit we can do because if we can all do it our collective action can have an impact.

Question: Do you think a mentorship program can be good to motivate more young women to take up conservation as a career?

Answer: I have mixed feelings about this one, yes I think mentorship does improve one's awareness of approaches to work but I really believe that interest in work and success is more intrinsic, it really starts from within, and for the mentorship to work there needs to be the correct partnership with the person who really appreciates the value of the work that they're doing. Unlike some professions, conservation is more like a service provision for a service where you can't perhaps realize the benefits in the next three or five years. People will say plant trees for your grandkids. We are not guaranteed to see the benefits . There may be no deliverables that are tangible at the end of the mentorship program. Where there is a correct partnership with the person who understands what they're doing today is actions for the future I think that can work. So I think where people are correctly paired it's a very beneficial program but I believe it's a very intrinsic kind of service that might work or not work if there's not a correct partnership.

Question: Would you take time to mentor a young woman if given an opportunity?

Answer: Definitely I mean we need more hands held together to do the work that we do. As I said if one person acts positively and the next does the same our multiple efforts together can bring out a good impact so definitely there is a good opportunity but there is a need for correct pairing and willingness to put in the work.

What is your favorite animal?

My favorite animal would be the African Jacana ( Jesus Bird). The female practices polyandry, she can have as many partners as she wants and she can lay her eggs in different males’ nests. Somehow the males of the African jacana have been convinced that they have to raise the chicks while the mother, kind of goes around her business so it's really a fascinating bird for me, it also has got these nice colors that just pop out when you're bird watching, its easy to spot, so it's one bird that I always look out for when I go to any water body.

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