CELEBRATING AFRICAN WOMEN—LUWI NGULUKA

#IWD2020 #EACHFOREQUAL

Growing up close to the Okavango Delta, living in harmony with nature and wildlife has always been an important part of Luwi Nguluka’s life. Now, as Awareness Manager of Wildlife Crime Prevention in Zambia, this energetic conservationist plays a key role in spreading awareness about the detrimental effects of the illegal wildlife trade.

Since 2017, Luwi has led a media campaign centered around the bushmeat trade, helping to make her fellow Zambians aware of the dangers of consuming meat from wild animals—a common practice in her home country. The illegal bushmeat trade is, in all probability, the single greatest threat to wildlife in Zambia, with bushmeat poaching reducing prey populations significantly over the last few decades.

Recently, the spread of the coronavirus underscored the risks of bushmeat consumption. “If the source really is pangolins, we need to start paying even more attention to this practice,” Luwi told the Shannon Elizabeth Foundation. “There is no reason why we should be eating pangolins or trading in their scales.”

Luwi has always been passionate about inclusivity and diversity in the conservation field and has made it her mission to help forge a gender-equal industry in Zambia. The Women for Conservation initiative—which gives Zambian women who work in or are interested in wildlife conservation a chance to meet regularly, share ideas, and support each other—was also initiated by her.

While Luwi was fortunate enough to grow up in a supportive family that encouraged her to pursue a career in conservation, she found it challenging to be taken seriously when she first entered the field. “I often walked into meetings where, at the back of my mind, I knew people were thinking that I’m just a little girl and that I can’t possibly know what I’m talking about. I felt the need to overcompensate by being slightly more aggressive than I ordinarily had to in order to be taken seriously.” Over time, however, Luwi learned how to make her voice heard, achieving much success along the way.

Luwi encourages younger women to enter the field of conservation, even if they have an academic background that doesn’t seem to fit. “There is no one-size-fits-all formula for getting into conservation. There are all sorts of jobs and opportunities available, so don’t let what you studied hold you back.”

On International Women’s Day 2020, Luwi’s message to the women of Africa is this: “There is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it. You are as capable, as equipped, and as powerful as anyone else on the planet.”