About Us

Women for Conservation empowers and partners with women around the globe
to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats.

Our History

A Mother Daughter Connection: Honoring Our Past, Creating the Future.
Women for Conservation is more than an organization, it is our legacy. Our organization was created in memory of Amparo, Sara’s mother, who was a visionary and was remembered by communities for her compassionate work with social outreach. Amparo dedicated her life to the empowerment of rural women in Cauca, Colombia; she unfortunately died at the age of 42, when Sara was only 19 years old. Her image is our logo and is represented by our mission,values and every aspect of our organization.

In essence, we are built on three generations of mother and daughter connection, passing knowledge, wisdom and passion. The lessons of our grandmother guides us to better understand the issues that women face. We dedicate our cause to the generations of women… past, present and yet to come.

Since it was established, the organization has partnered with fundación ProAves in Colombia to develop projects to empower women in rural communities at five project sites, including the nature reserves of El Dorado, El Jaguar, Loros Andinos, Cerulean Warbler, And Paujil. Involving women in the conservation of these reserves has successfully preserved natural resources while significantly reducing threats to endangered species.

As part of its earliest programs, Women For Conservation designed environmental education programs to raise awareness about endangered species and their habitats, in collaboration with local mothers and their children. To prevent deforestation, fuel-efficient stoves were provided to families, reducing the need to cook with firewood. Additionally, the initiative launched reproductive health campaigns and workshops that taught sexual education and distributed contraceptives to benefit women and their families.

Importantly, the organization economically empowers women by encouraging them to establish eco-friendly microbusinesses that produce Sustainable artisan crafts for sale. This extra income helps steer families away from earning a living through destructive practices such as logging, ranching, and poaching wildlife. The pilot program was made possible with support from the American Bird Conservancy and Audubon Naturalist Society. It has trained women from five villages to sustainably use natural resources; such as creating jewelry from seeds and Tagua nuts (otherwise known as “vegetable ivory”). The finished products are displayed and sold at ProAves Nature Reserves. Funds from sales pay a fair-trade wage to women participating in the program.

Our Team

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Sara Inés Lara
Sara Inés Lara
Founder & Executive Director

Born in 1973 with indigenous ancestry, Sara Ines Lara grew up in a small village in the Andes of Colombia. Throughout her childhood, Sara’s guiding light and inspiration was her mother, a woman loved and respected in the local communities for her involvement with marginalized women. Sadly, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 37 and died several years later. Following this tragedy, Sara was subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse from her father.

Sara found in nature indescribable healing to her wounds and used it as a therapeutic tool to recover from childhood trauma. In 2003, following her passion for nature and wildlife conservation, she became Executive Director of Fundación ProAves, a leading conservation organization in Colombia. Under her leadership, the organization established and managed 17 nature reserves to save endangered species. In 2004, Sara combined her love of nature with her drive to empower women and started the initiative Women for Conservation. This program quickly spread to communities neighboring ProAves’ nature reserves, where local women learned about the importance of safeguarding their natural environments. With this knowledge, they were motivated to develop projects that reduced deforestation, such as producing eco-friendly artisan products and reducing their usage of wood-fueled stoves.

Sara continued to develop the Women for Conservation program as Vice President of International Programs at American Bird Conservancy and then at Permian Global. Sara’s principal interests include empowering women, preventing species extinction, safeguarding tropical habitats, and alleviating poverty. It is her life mission to protect the natural world so that we all may have the opportunity to heal through nature. Sara has been recognized as One in a Hundred Great Latin American Women by Billiken Magazine.

Isabella Cortes Lara
Isabella Cortes Lara
Co-founder & Director of Conservation

Isabella is a graduate from West Virginia University who is passionate about conserving the environment while enhancing people’s well-beings and livelihoods. As a lifelong enthusiast of conservation, she has been involved with numerous community-level projects that link the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity with economic development. Isabella is an environmental professional with diverse experience, including community leadership, mobilization and organization of projects. Additionally, an endangered species of hummingbird is named after Isabella, Eriocnemis isabellae. An ambassador of the species, she promotes the conservation of the hummingbird, which is also known as the Gorgeted Puffleg or Zamarrito del Pinche. As a student, she encouraged peers to participate in outreach programs with Women for Conservation and presented different projects for women’s empowerment as a guest speaker for the International Conservation class.

Emily Knudson
Emily Knudson
Communications & Outreach Manager

Emily (she/they, ella/elle) is an activist and communications specialist with over 7 years of experience working with international grassroots organizations promoting environmental education, women’s rights, and intersectional social justice advocacy. Trained in Environmental Studies at Augsburg University in Minneapolis and International Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Granada in Spain, Emily is thrilled to contribute their expertise to Women for Conservation’s mission. Prior to joining Women for Conservation, Emily worked as a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil and a Communications & Education Specialist for an Environmental Justice non-profit in New York City.

Deanna Alderson
Deanna Alderson
Volunteer

As an experienced writer and editor, Deanna (she/her) is excited to bring her passion for protecting the environment and improving the lives of women to her role as grant writer. She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she studied the impact of conservation projects and eco-tourism on indigenous women in Peru. She previously worked on grant proposals for a large animal shelter in Southern California and also raised funds for a community organization that provides support to families experiencing housing instability. Deanna is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science at the University of Idaho, with a focus on natural resource management and policy. In her free time, she volunteers with ecological restoration projects at the coastal wetlands near her home.

Kelly Johana Julio Donado
Kelly Johana Julio Donado
Project Coordinator

Kelly, a mother of 4 beautiful children,  joined Women for Conservation’s team in Colombia in 2017 after meeting Sara Inés Lara at a local women’s group meeting. Sara invited her to join our team after seeing her drive, dedication, and love for community organizing. While Kelly was not granted the opportunity to to finish primary school for economic reasons, she came from a compassionate family and is incredibly driven by her passion to serve her community. Kelly has spearheaded our family planning campaigns in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta since 2019, as well as our campaigns in Zona Bananera and Taganga, which began in 2021.  Kelly oversees coordination with Women for Conservation’s Sierra Nevada community group, and has collaboratively organized workshops on bird identification, english classes, cooking and hygiene certification, and artisanal craft making. Additionally, she teaches workshops in the local Vista Nieves school on the subjects of bird identification, waste management, and lessons on nature conservation.  Sara describes Kelly as having “a magnetism which attracts prosperity, charm, and smiles to all around her”. We are honored to have Kelly as part of our team, and look forward to continuing working hand in hand with her as we realize our dreams empowering local communities to protect and conserve one of the most biodiverse mountains in the world.

Zoe
Zoe
Communications Intern

She(her)

Zoe is a current student at George Mason University who is passionate about female empowerment and environmental conservation. She is studying Environmental and Sustainability Studies with a focus in Environmental Justice. Zoe is originally from Colorado and in her free time loves to camp, hike, mountainbike, rock climb, and snowboard. Zoe’s previous experience is in curriculum development as she created a learning management system on positive healthy relationships and comprehensive sexual education. Zoe is thrilled to contribute her expertise to Women for Conservation and learn from and work with pioneers in the environmental justice community.

Our holistic approach deeply impacts the lives of women and mothers, whose wellbeing has a ripple effect throughout the community. Support our cause today.