Empowering women for conservation

Handicraft program creates extra income, incentives to save cats

Women are key to healthy families - and healthy wildlife - in Central Asia and beyond. Research has shown that in communities living with carnivores, women tend to view the carnivores as more of a threat than men. In most of the communities we are working with, women run the family, take care of the children, and have important and complementary roles caring for livestock alongside men. It’s reasonable to assume that when livestock are lost, women feel it as a blow to family income and their ability to care for family well-being.

On the other hand, the crucial role they play in their communities also makes women powerful potential allies in conservation. Recognizing this potential, we support various programs that aim to empower women in particular. For instance, our field teams in Pakistan are helping to organize certificate courses in animal husbandry and livestock vaccination for local women.

Following a similar approach is Snow Leopard Enterprises, a unique project that helps women make and sell fine wool handicraft. The extra income they make offsets livestock losses to predators - and in return, participating families agree to prohibit the killing of snow leopards and wild prey. If no poaching or retaliation killings occur in a community, they receive additional cash bonuses. However, if snow leopards and their prey are hurt, that bonus is lost.

As part of the program, participants can also apply for micro-loans to get their own business ideas off the ground - one of the components we're directly supporting. We also help with training, guidebooks, product collection and shipping, and contract compliance bonuses for women in communities in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan.

Snow Leopard Enterprise products are available online through the Snow Leopard Trust's web shop.