Women's Day 2022

The School of Wildlife Conservation remains committed to developing African female leaders to solve Africa’s unique conservation challenges.

This Women’s Day, the African Leadership University School of Wildlife Conservation celebrates the over-100 women who have completed conservation programs. As women play an increased role in conservation in Africa, SoWC remains committed to developing African female leaders to solve Africa’s unique conservation challenges. Since its founding, 108 women have completed ALU School of Wildlife Conservation programs, with over 90 women receiving scholarships through targeted outreach campaigns designed to attract more female students.

Graduates have taken leadership positions at national and regional organisations such as the Rwanda Development Board, the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Grumeti Fund, Lion Guardians, and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservation Association. They have developed programs including Rejuvenate! Umhlaba (a land restoration company), the African Travel Entrepreneurs, Conservation Club, and Green Hill Recycling. Throughout the ALU Wildlife Economy Research study, ALU student research interns from across Africa, including several women, have completed internships where they learn practice- and policy-relevant research skills in terms of data collection, collation, analysis, and reporting.

“The only way for conservation in Africa to work is for it to benefit Africans and perhaps most importantly women in Africa’’, says Fred Swaniker, Founder of the African Leadership University. The goal of all School of Wildlife programs is to guide those women into leadership positions.” As the demand for a business and economic case for conservation is higher than ever, the School of Wildlife Conservation training responds to the leadership gaps in the conservation sector. This innovative leadership development program provides platforms for young entrepreneurs to incubate their innovative conservation business models for the African wildlife economy.

To highlight the scope of talented women matriculating through SoWC, we have reached out to the faculty and students to get their unique perspectives on being a woman in the conservation world.

Audrey Njenga, Final Year Computer Science Student

As an ALU student, you are asked to identify a mission or goal for your career. A problem you will solve. What is yours?

My passion has always been technology, it fascinates me how much technology can be used to solve different problems at large scales. At the same time, I'm interested in conservation because I think it’s important to take care of the limited resources we have. Combining these two passions is how I identified my mission which is to develop technological tools that will aid in combating challenges in conservation.

Tell us about your most recent accomplishment in conservation.

I recently participated in the Microsoft Global Student Hackathon with three other friends, and our team won the Grand Prize. We were all interested in the hack for Earth category and wanted to use IoT for conservation in an innovative way. We came up with Forest Guard, an IoT and Machine Learning based tool that enables real-time detection of illegal logging in forests. Forest Guard is a project I’m very excited about for the potential it has to make an impact on forests all around the world. It’s currently what we are spending our free time working on, and looking forward to growing it over time.

Sue Snyman, Head of Research, School of Wildlife Conservation

Tell us how you got started in conservation. Did something spark your interest, or was there an experience that began your wish to have conservation be the focus of your career?

I have loved nature since I can remember and still have very fond memories of when I received my first mammal book - South African Animals in the Wild - in 1985 and paging through it endlessly (I still have the book!). As soon as I could, I did a few guide training courses and headed into the bush, where I loved teaching people about conservation and wildlife. My passion for communities and ensuring that communities are equitably engaged in conservation and receiving benefits started when I began teaching environmental education to rural children around Kruger National Park. I have since spent more than 22 years working in this space and am passionate about ensuring that governments, communities, the private sector, and others value wildlife (fauna and flora), benefit from it, and therefore, invest in conserving it.

Do you have a female role model or mentor in conservation? Someone to look up to. Who are they, and what do they do?

The first woman I recall admiring for her passion and dedication to conservation is Dian Fossey. Also, at the time, Joy Adamson and Delia Owens - their exciting lives living in wild places and studying gorillas, lions, and brown hyaenas, respectively, was something I longed to do. I also admired Wangari Maathai and her role in reforestation in Kenya and Cynthia Moss and Katy Payne for their incredible elephant research. It is interesting that given my career in research, most of the women who influenced me when I was younger were dedicated researchers.

Mariam Lawani, MBA, 2021 Founder of Greenhill Recycling

As an ALU student, you are asked to identify a mission or goal for your career. A problem you will solve. What is yours?

My mission is to find sustainable and innovative solutions to the waste management crisis across Africa. I am currently pursuing that mission through my start-up, Greenhill Recycling, a social enterprise addressing poverty, unemployment, and climate change challenges using recyclable solid waste as a currency to exchange value. At Greenhill recycling, we believe that waste is a resource and can be used as a currency to create value.

Tell us about your most recent accomplishment in conservation.

This would majorly be the strides we have achieved through Greenhill Recycling. Besides numerous awards, Startup of the year, 2021, Top 100 young African Conservation Leaders ( an Award by WWF, African Wildlife, YMCA, and Scouts) We have also gotten major funding to scale our social enterprise. We can now reach more communities, we have infused technology into our solution, we are using several mediums to convey the message of conservation and climate mitigation and we are being heard.