The Braveness in Us: Akashinga calls for equity in conservation – International Women’s Day 2023


The Braveness in Us: Akashinga calls for equity in conservation – International Women’s Day 2023

In honor of International Women's Day, IAPF celebrates Akashinga and the influence this initiative has had on embracing equity.

March 8, 2023

Sergeant Major Nyaradzo Hoto is the epitome of a powerful woman making strides in wildlife conservation. Rising through the ranks since Akashinga’s first recruitment, she was awarded an International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) International Ranger of the Year Award in 2022.

As an ambassador for Akashinga, Nyaradzo speaks candidly about her experience,

"I am strong today because I have been weak. I am fearless today because I have been afraid.”[1]

She is not alone. The Akashinga program started in 2017 with a group of sixteen women, all survivors of gender-based violence, many affected by HIV/AIDS. Today, most Akashingarecruits face similar struggles, reflecting the reality of women in sub-Saharan Africa who, according to the World Bank, are more likely to be affected by poverty, lack access to education and healthcare, and face discrimination and violence.[2]

Nyaradzo Hoto

Although there is a higher percentage of female wildlife rangers in Africa than the global average (19% vs 11 %)[3], women are still not performing on a level playing field. Traumatic experiences, cultural norms, and gender-differentiated opportunities can detrimentally impact professional development. Until all of us in the conservation industry ensure that women have access to education and training within a safe and supportive work environment, true equity will remain elusive.

Nyaradzo, who was forced into marriage for financial security and severely abused by her husband for many years, became even more vulnerable after she gained the courage to divorce. She says that Akashinga was a turning point, and she has used it as, “a tool to fight my battle towards a better life.”[4]

Once a high school dropout, last December Nyaradzo received her Bachelor of Honours Degree in Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation from Zimbabwe’s Chinhoyi University of Technology.

Ranger Supervisor, Sergeant Major Wadzani Munemo, was another candidate chosen in that first recruitment. Joining without any knowledge or experience in conservation, Wadzanai, or Wadza as she is known by her peers, has grown her career with Akashinga and now directly oversees sixty-six rangers in Zimbabwe’s Hurungwe region.

Wadza’s passion for the natural world has been ignited by her work and she is delighted to see Akashinga’s efforts paying off with the ultimate reward; wildlife populations are returning to the areas she and her colleagues patrol. Wadza also takes pride in gathering information that assists with operations and deployments. Last year she helped facilitate the arrest of two police officers involved in poaching after receiving a tip-off that they were attempting to sell a pangolin for $US 6000.[5]

Wadzanai Munemo

Five years on, Wadza attributes her job fulfillment to the opportunities and promotions she has had at IAPF, which “have given me the strength and motivation to learn about how our actions today influence a better tomorrow for our community and natural world." At Akashinga, Wadza lives by her words, mentoring new recruits and the wider community to develop an appreciation of the wildlife surrounding them.

One of these younger rangers is Purity Mapa, who is 22 years old. After realizing she wanted to learn more about the company beyond her ranger duties, she began a year-long internship with the internal marketing and communications team. She was able to learn about all aspects of the production process, from photography to lighting and sound, to conducting interviews and even sharing her own experience. She completed this internship in December last year and was an invaluable member of the team.

More recently, Purity participated in the first LEAD Ranger Coach Ranger Life Saving Course held in Zimbabwe, which included practical and theoretical training on emergency response in the field. Purity is not only able to perform these skills herself but has been equipped to teach others.

Purity Mapa

At IAPF we are inspired to see women like Nyaradzo, Wadza and Purity, who have faced significant challenges in their lives, seize opportunities to further their careers and become role models towards change in their communities. The increase of wildlife under Akashinga’s protection is evidence that their determination and work ethic is worth the investment.

This sentiment is echoed in the communities IAPF operates in, where an estimated 62%of Akashinga’s operational costs are fuelled back into the community.[6] Rangers who were once reliant on other family members for financial support are now earning salaries which, not only contribute to their household income, but allow them to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities which boost their earnings. Akashinga rangers have earned the respect of community leaders and are inspiring other women to follow suit with their own IAPF-funded initiatives, such as a peanut-butter making business in Binga district.

This International Women’s Day, IAPF commits to #embraceequity by investing in female-led community development and offering specialised training that accommodates the nuances of gender inequality to ensure Akashinga rangers excel in their field. As Nyaradzo puts it, without such external support it’s hard to believe in yourself,

“The braveness in me —I couldn’t ever have imagined it before.”[7] 


[1] Interview in LAD Bible

[2] Work Bank Gender Overview

[3] URSA Report

[4] Interview in LAD Bible

[5] The Manica Post:

[6] One earth interview:

[7]One Earth interview: