Meet Zimbabwe's Inspiring, All Female Anti-Poaching Unit
Zimbabwe has a new weapon in its seemingly endless battle with elephant and rhino poachers who have reduced populations by 40% since 2001. The Akashinga squad, or "The Brave Ones," is Zimbabwe's first all-female anti-poaching team. They protect the animals within the Phundundu Wildlife Park in Zimbabwe, a sprawling habitat of over 115 square miles which is home to over 11,000 elephants.
The "Brave Ones" have arrested dozens of armed poachers this year, but the Akashinga project is about more than conservation; it's also an innovative personal development initiative assisting some of Zimbabwe's most disadvantaged women and turning them into community leaders.
International Anti-Poaching Foundation: "Akashinga is an investment into women and their families, the development of rural communities, neighboring wilderness areas and an alternative to trophy hunting. By empowering rural women the program also locally motivates poverty reduction, healthcare, skills development, children staying in school, rape & sexual assault prevention, increased life expectancy, disease reduction and structured family planning. Akashinga empowers and inspires. "
The Guardian: "Women’s empowerment is at the core of the programme, named Akashinga, which means the brave ones. “This is a true empowerment programme,” says [conservation biologist Victor Muposhi of Chinhoyi University of Technology], “because you are dealing with a highly vulnerable and damaged group of young ladies.” Sitting on a rock looking north over one of Africa’s last great wildernesses, Muposhi explains that his early research shows the five-month-old programme is helping change these formerly unemployed single mothers into community leaders."
"Primrose Mazliru, 21, stands in the gathering dusk near their camp among the new grass, bright green with the recent rains. Ramrod straight, shoulders back and proud, she smiles despite the vivid scar that runs across her upper lip, where her ex-boyfriend beat her in a drunken rage. “I can testify to the power of this programme to change my life, and now I have the respect of my community, even as a young single mother,” she explains."
Akashinga aims to recruit 1000 women, protecting a network of 20 former hunting reserves by 2025. They are entirely funded by private donors. To support the Akashinga squad, please visit the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.
Video Credit: The BBC