Championing biodiversity through the eyes of women and girls

Reina Sánchez is a park ranger and oversees the entire Irazú-Turrialba Volcanic Conservation Block.

In Costa Rica, more and more women are deciding to get involved in biodiversity conservation and work as park rangers in national parks. Two IKI projects support approaches for gender equality in this field. 

In the country´s beautiful Cordillera Central mountain range, two giants stand out: Irazú -commonly called the "thunder volcanoe"- and Turrialba are the country's highest volcanoes. Both are situated in national parks that go by the peaks' respective names.

In charge of their protection is Reina Sánchez, a park ranger with 18 years of experience and responsible for the entire Irazú-Turrialba Volcanic Conservation Block, which spans over 2,850 hectares. Reina is the only female park ranger in this area.

Costa Rica is renowned for its biodiversity, but this would not be possible without the dedicated work of park rangers who play a crucial role in safeguarding conservation areas. 

While the sector has traditionally been male dominated, more and more women are joining, willing to fulfill their commitment to protecting these areas.

Costa Rica and Target 23

Recognizing the importance of biodiversity protection with a gender focus, Costa Rica proposed the inclusion of an additional target in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) during the negotiation process. Target 23 aims to ensure gender equality in the implementation of the GBF through a responsive approach, where all women and girls have equal opportunities and capabilities to contribute to the Biological Diversity Convention’s objectives.

The ACCIÓN Clima and BioFrame projects, financed by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) in Costa Rica, have joined forces with governmental institutions such as the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), and the National Women’s Institute (INAMU).

These collaborations provide tools to influence biodiversity management policies and measures, strengthening open and transparent participation and empowering women in their roles related to biodiversity and community interactions.

For Reina Sánchez, these initiatives help bridge the gender gaps that female park rangers have experienced in the male-dominated environment. Unfamiliar challenges faced include, for example, the lack of proper conditions for pregnant women or those with kids to continue fulfilling their obligations and responsibilities.

First exchange for female park rangers

As an important first step, SINAC and GIZ co-hosted the first ever meeting in Costa Rica’s history in May 2023, where 30 female park rangers joined forces to identify challenges and initial steps for designing a set of measures to address inequalities and enhance specialized work for biodiversity conservation.

First exchange for female park rangers.

In his welcoming remarks, Environment and Energy Minister Franz Tattenbach emphasized:

"One cannot talk about leading a global process as Costa Rica did with Target 23 in the Convention on Biological Diversity without setting an example at the national level. That is why we aim to further strengthen the role of women in biodiversity management within the institution. "

In line with the Environment Minister's remarks, INAMU President Adilia Caravaca also pledged to align the institution's climate agenda with biodiversity work and support future collaborations.

Additional meetings in more remote territories are planned with the aim of integrating the vision of more park rangers and women leaders of local communities that participate in the management of the sustainable use of biodiversity.

From theory to action

Now, the challenge lies in translating these commitments into action, fostering the development of synergies and capacities to promote the strategic lines of work for this target, primarily the participation of women in decision-making, policy formulation, access to land and natural resources, and the strengthening of inclusive, informed, and equitable leadership.

Reina Sánchez is excited about the new opportunities and important advances the collaboration will bring for her and her fellow female colleagues: 

"With these initiatives, we recognize and identify the limitations we have in promoting gender equity. I have worked surrounded by men, but the support of women is key in work environments. Striking a balance between conservation and equality is very important."

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