[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/3-5.jpg” credits=”Photo by Robin Moore ” title=”” text=””]
As Director of Madagasikara Voakajy, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka is responsible for leading conservation efforts to protect some of Madagascar’s most threatened forests and species.
Julie joined Madagasikara Voakajy, a non-profit dedicated to biodiversity conservation in eastern Madagascar, twelve years ago as an intern and has emerged as an energetic voice for wildlife protection in a country known for both its endemic species and the systemic threats they face.
To mark International Women’s Day on March 8, we spoke with Julie about the challenges she faces as a female conservationist, her career, and the role of women in conservation.
|Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka ©Madagasikara Voakajy|
| Indri Lemur © Shutterstock
How did you become interested in conservation?
I became specifically interested in conservation when I first encountered Indris, the largest extant lemur, at the age of 13. This was a great experience that I still want to renew.
At the university, I chose to study in the water and forestry department because that would provide me with more opportunities to travel and be out in the wild.
When I joined Madagasikara Voakajy in 2003 as a student, I found I really loved working with the team, which was composed of young passionate researchers. I grew up within this team and the organization of which I am currently Director.
Do you face particular challenges as a woman in this field? If so, can you give an example?
In Madagascar, a Director is generally expected to be a tall man.
People are always surprised when my team introduces me at villages where I haven’t worked before. There have been cases when I have been asked, “Where is your Director? Your colleagues said he would be here.”
I don’t consider this as a challenge, but as an opportunity to make people realize that things can change, and everything is possible – as long as you really want to do it.
Why is it important for women to get involved in the conservation field?
Although women are not generally decision makers in Madagascar, they influence most of the decisions made in households. I also think that women are very good at listening to each other.
So more women should be able to stand up and speak in public about conservation. This will slowly, but certainly, provoke positive changes towards sustainable development and conservation.
Do you have a message for young women interested in conservation?
The challenges that young women sometimes meet in the conservation field can be frightening, but we need to overcome this fear and move forward.
Rainforest Trust is currently working with Madagasikara Voakajy to protect 74,816 acres in Madagascar for endangered species.