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Women in Conservation : The Story of Dorothy Chipo Madamba

women in conservation

In this article

  • Editor's Note

  • Who is Dorothy Chipo Madamba

  • Designation

  • Some of her duties

  • Source of inspiration

  • Motivation

  • Challenges being faced by women in conservation

  • Suggested interventions

  • A piece of advice for aspiring female conservationists

  • Exciting experiences

  • Challenging experiences

  • Wildlife Conservation

  • Favorite animal

Editor's Note

Editor : Tapiwa Prosper Chimbadzwa

The month of March provided us with an opportunity to reflect on the systemic disparities that exist in the male-dominated field of conservation. It allowed us to honor women who are making a difference in both motivating the next generation and protecting the environment. As wildlife Conservation Action , we envision a world where humans and animals coexist, and this can only happen if men and women work together without prejudice or discrimination. Men and women often have very diverse talents and information, which when combined form a knowledge system tailored to local conditions, requirements, and priorities. As we near the end of Women's Month, let us remember that women can, and collectively we can, do great things.

Who is Dorothy Chipo Madamba

Dorothy Chipo Madamba is an Entomologist, Heritage Manager, a Curator of Entomology with National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. Dorothy is into Entomology, Heritage and Conservation Education, particularly nature. She is the founder and administrator at Reach A Young Soul (RAYS) Trust and CEO at Unboxing Entomology Pvt LTD.


Curator of Entomology with National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe

Some of her duties

At the Natural History Museum, she is responsible for the day to day running of Curating and conducting research on the Entomology collections, offering entomology education through exhibitions, research, publications, presentations and educational programs. In other spaces she has done some more work with regards to conservation education including trainings and symposiums for young people as well as supervising internships for university students.

Source of Inspiration

Who inspired her to pursue a conservation career?

Dorothy has had several influencers along the way, but the most credit goes to 3 men, Prof Peter Mundy, Mr. Mukai Mawanza and Dr. VJ Wilson for their strong influence and impact, (while there have been many stronger influences along her 14-year journey, Dorothy chooses the three as the earliest she can remember)


Question: What motivates you to do your job ?

Answer: “It's always the look on children's faces when they have just learnt something new or they have been inspired and motivated, that is priceless to me and makes everything worthwhile”, she says

Challenges being faced by women in conservation

Question : What are the challenges being faced by women in the conservation field ?

Answer: Unconscious bias is one of the primary problems that women face in the conservation profession, speaking from personal experience. It all starts from yourself, with you doubting yourself and your capabilities in comparison to males in similar situations. Unfortunately, unconscious bias has a negative impact on rate of progress in ones career. As a woman leader in the field of conservation, or any field for that matter, you have a lot more to prove before people take you seriously. I believe this stems from a cultural backdrop in which women are treated as second-class citizens, thus the expectation is discreetly present in the workplace; it is not black and white, but it exists.

The unconscious bias also goes towards race as well, being a single, young, black woman in conservation involves dealing with a lot of doubts in your capabilities and there is a bias that comes with that because you have to earn people's trust more than others have to.

Another component of the bias that comes through is the problem of age, when you have to speak to, direct, or deliver an idea to a group of older men. I've been told explicitly that you're young and you've only recently arrived, and I don't think you know what you're talking about, only to turn around and still use the same ideas. So, even if you have unique ideas within the industry as a young woman, these are some of the hurdles that draw you back and make you lose confidence.

Suggested interventions

Question: What can be done to support women in the conservation space ?

Answer : The unconscious bias is progressively being removed by allowing women to advance and hold positions of leadership. For many, seeing other women doing this in the same spaces as males sends the message that it is acceptable to listen to a woman, to adopt her ideas and credit her for them. By so doing we will be tackling the image of the bias that exists when more women are rewarded through awards and having key positions in the profession. More support is needed in providing women with conditions that allow them to occupy places given their socially constructed roles, which may make it difficult for them to thrive if they are given the same working conditions as males. By taking care of the various things that a woman needs to worry about, such as maternity leaves and day cares, you are helping her to flourish and contribute much more.

A piece of Advice for aspiring female conservationists

Question: What advice would you give to girls who are thinking of following a career in conservation ?

Answer: Conservation is a broad field. As a result, young people must begin by understanding themselves, their passions, and their skill sets. Examine how they apply in this broad subject and how you may contribute greatly. So the best advise I could provide is to do something you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. This enables one to persevere even in the most trying of circumstances, because life is never easy.

Exciting career memories

Question: What are the most exciting or memorable experiences in your job ?

Answer : I've had numerous exciting occasions throughout my career, but I'll only highlight a handful. The first would undoubtedly be Reach A Young Soul (RAYS) Trust's Registration, and how we were able to reach rural children with a conservation message while also allowing them to network with children from the city at one point. Being able to bring together two sets of children from different backgrounds who are brought together by a common interest in conservation education. The second will be my first solo publication experience, where I was ecstatic to be able to conceptualize an idea and see it through. I was also thrilled to be able to share the knowledge that I had gained while studying that subject. The last one is being able to train students so that they can complete their program and enter the workforce.

Challenging experiences

Question: What are the most challenging experiences in your job ?

Answer: Maintaining the balance has been the major challenge, how we get more passionate about getting the job done and making an impact, at the expense of one’s well being. Sometimes the passion overrides and I overexert myself. Also generally in Zim the field is not well sponsored so lack of funding and resources mostly stifles progress in our work. So sometimes trying to achieve goals with limited resources becomes hectic. The upside is that it allows for innovation.

Wildlife Conservation

Question: Why is it important to protect and conserve wildlife ?

Answer : Being a Christian I believe in the concept of stewardship so it is a responsible thing to conserve and protect nature. Our actions or misactions all impact other species so it is important to conserve nature as it offers some assurance for the long term survival of our species.

Favorite Animal

My favorite animal/insect will be the . Spiny flower mantis also known as the Bulls-eye mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii). Besides being a very good mimic, its aesthetically pleasing , and I think probably my bias is, it has got a bulls eye (target on its back) ,which metaphorically has a lot of meaning for me. Despite its size it can tackle prey that is much larger than itself, and of course another metaphor I would like to think of myself being able to tackle things that are bigger than me in life. I also like the colors on it, lastly I don’t know if it augments my like for the animal but, after the female mates she will bite off the head of that guy and that’s the end of the story for her mating partner who only gets to mate once.
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