Women in Conservation

During the ongoing Women's History Month, we're featuring a paper by snow leopard researchers that explores the role of women in snow leopard conservation in the high mountains of Asia.

Engaging women in conservation efforts can lead to improved and more equitable outcomes. However, most conservation programs build upon existing community structures, where men tend to be in charge and women’s input can be easily overlooked. If community-based conservation programs do not incorporate women’s voices adequately during planning and implementation, it could compromise the effectiveness of the conservation efforts and reinforce existing gender disparities. Our team of researchers recently brought attention to this concern and focused on two case studies in Mongolia and India, where Snow Leopard Trust has been conducting community-based conservation initiatives for over 15 years.

Agvaantseren Bayarjargal is our Regional Conservation Program Manager and co-author of the paper. She says:

“Enhancing the role of women in snow leopard conservation has been one of my life’s missions. Our paper shows the gender-segregated roles of men and women in societies, and reiterates the critical importance  of incorporating women’s ideas, needs, and contributions in conservation.”

The two case studies describe different approaches that can be followed to leverage women’s unique and important experiences, knowledge, and skills for biodiversity conservation in snow leopard landscapes. For example, the role of women in India’s Kibber Village in managing irrigation means they have specialized knowledge about water, a crucial resource threatened by climate change, and can make informed decisions about their community’s sustainable water usage. In Tost, Mongolia, women have pursued conservation-linked jobs that diversify family income and can shore up their conservation leadership, as well as improve their resilience against drought or extreme climatic events.

In Mongolia, there are encouraging signs that women are in key positions to influence snow leopard conservation, such as directorships of multiple protected areas. Women in Tost have also become more active in conservation-related decisions by pursuing roles in the local government – comprising 33% of elected officials in the Gurvantes District where Tost is located.

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Communities across the high mountains of Asia are being exposed to globalization, changes in land use, new market forces and new information and ideas. Climate change is also adding new pressures on this ecosystem, putting livelihoods and wellbeing – as well as snow leopards and other wildlife – at risk. New opportunities and aspirations for women are emerging alongside these changes, and conservation practitioners must ensure that their conservation efforts are gender-inclusive and strongly incorporate the roles of women. 

Read the full paper titled: Applying a gender lens to biodiversity conservation in High Asia here.

You can help expand access to women-led community-based conservation initiatives by donating today.

Photo credits: Fidget Films and SLCF-Mongolia


Special thanks to the Tost and Kibber communities and the women who participated in the study, as well as the Government of Gurvantes, South Gobi and the Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve. 

SLT would also like to acknowledge: 

People’s Trust for Endangered Species, IKI Small Grants Project – GIZ.

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