Women of the Future
It is important to look down and up when you walk in the bush. Every time I favour one over the other for too long, I walk into thorns or fall in a hole. Both of which make Beverly fall about herself with laughter. This is both unfair and humbling. It is also a reminder to design any way forward with an eye on the details at your feet and the future up ahead.
Any discussion we have at Great Plains about the future leads immediately to a discussion about how we will get there. People drive conservation, not animals, so any talks about conservation must include ideas from our communities and an eye to where we will be in 20 years. Over 55% of East Africa’s livestock, a significant impact on conservation, is owned by women. 40% of Africa’s entire population is under 15 years old. It’s clear to me that when we talk about the future of African conservation, the health of that, the wealth of the biodiversity, the welfare of the people who live nearest to nature lies in the hands of women and children.
So, with that in mind, Great Plains Conservation is moving forward to increase our efforts for both women and children. General education, conservation education and hospitality training for young people via the Great Plains Academy. It all started with a survey we conducted in the Seronga communities in 2016, where we asked the community of 16,000 people what they needed. Job and food security came up the highest. Education is the tool that best takes them furthest down that path to prosperity. The Great Plains Academy is now established and developing programs and training schemes to roll out this year.
I once sat next to a wonderful woman at dinner who said: “Women deserve to be in all places where decisions are made.” A simple statement I totally agree with. She also gave me a card of a company that made poison used to kill lions. This company wanted to sue me if I spoke about it, and she offered legal help. As I looked at Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s card in my hands, her now often quoted words stayed with me. When we surveyed a community recently, the women were most vocal. This resulted in Beverly and I discussing ways in which we could really empower women in our circle.
So today, I’m announcing that Great Plains Conservation (in Botswana) is initiating a new progressive move where we have allocated an equity stake in our company to the newly established Basadi Empowerment Trust (Basadi means women in Setswana) with a board now signed on and being registered. The idea is to use funding generated from tourism and outside donors to distribute as grants to women applicants for small business development in the region, with business management guidance and opportunities to attract enhanced funding from the first seed funding round. Think TV’s Shark Tank (US) or Dragons’ Den (UK), but in Botswana with a board of mighty women, all Botswana citizens, each successful in their own careers, but not competing for the idea, collaborating to make the proposal actually work.
I want to congratulate the new Basadi Trust Board members, including The Honourable Justice Annah Mathiba, Mrs Manana Baagi, Tshoacong, Elizabeth Bayane, Daphne Kadiwa and Beverly Joubert (so far), with the board empowered to elect their own board of trustees going forward. I know that while this is an entirely new way for a safari company anywhere in the world to do business, it is a new way for revenues to flow from tourism to the intellectual development of women in communities. This ensures women take advantage of opportunities to grow, enhance themselves, and have economic autonomy. Our success as a conservation tourism company will now be the shared success of many. Our intelligent future strategies will benefit others layer after layer as the small grants turn into a movement, and women are now in a place where decisions are made.
This is a new dawn for our business and our communities.