We are thrilled to announce our latest podcast interview! Women for Conservation’s executive director, Sara Inés Lara, discussed the organization’s conservation efforts through female empowerment on Brevard Zoo’s podcast, Paws for a Moment.
After leaving Colombia to pursue a civil engineering career in England, Sara was pulled back to her home by a deep need to protect endangered birds and wildlife. Sara began her conservation work in 1998 as the Executive Director of ProAves, an organization in Colombia dedicated to studying and conserving endemic and endangered species. Their first major success was bringing the Yellow-Eared Parrot back from the brink of extinction – growing the population from only 81 individuals in 1998 to over 2,600 in 2021. ProAves’s incredible success was made possible through community engagement and education – and inspired locals to lead parrot festivals, reforestation projects, and end the unsustainable use of wax palm fronds.
The incredible success of saving the Yellow-eared Parrot demonstrated the power of engaging local communities in wildlife conservation efforts. Sara Inés Lara began Women for Conservation as an initiative of ProAves and focused on providing Colombian women with access to health care, family planning, and sustainable-livelihood training. The livelihood training was inspired by Sara’s mother’s social work, in which she would teach women how to prepare food and sew to create extra income. Women for Conservation still runs these programs today at a larger scale. These programs not only empower women to sustainably make a living, but also to speak up and share their stories, challenges, needs, and dreams.
“When you catch the heart of people, when you resonate with them, something happens deeply inside and that happens to me. So my goal and my purpose is to share my story and motivate and encourage women, men, children, and obviously young girls to make conservation part of their life.” – Sara Inés Lara
Even amidst the complications of the Covid-19 pandemic, Women for Conservation has grown exponentially to reach 2,261 girls and women in the past 3 years. Women for Conservation programs are in high demand, and our extensive waiting list shows that rural communities are eager to become a part of the solution to biodiversity degradation.
Sara also used the platform to speak about the relationship between women’s equality and conservation. Sara stated that women have a deep connection with mother earth and see conservation as a long term investment in nature. Sara acquaints motherhood to conservation as women can pass these values and inherent truths to subsequent generations.
Sara recognized Ninfa Carianil Damaso as the first female guard who Women for Conservation supported and trained. Despite losing her son and husband while living in the Harpy Eagle Reserve, Ninfa persevered and went on to win the IUCN’s International Park Rangers Award.
Sara also recognized Kelly Johana Julio Donado on the podcast as an enthusiastic project coordinator. Kelly has spearheaded Women for Conservation’s family planning campaigns in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta since 2019, as well as their 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.
Brevard Zoo Partnership
Since 2021, Brevard Zoo of Florida has supported Women for Conservation’s development with our programs at the intersection of female empowerment and conservation. To read more about our ongoing partnership, click here >>>
“Conservation is not a remote term, but is a way of living, a way of thinking. It is individually interpreted so each person can live in harmony with nature.” – Sara Inés Lara
Article written by Zoe Vozick