Akashinga continues to inspire young, underprivileged women into brave rangers.

John Cassim

Grace and Lice in Songo, Binga near Lake Kariba

John Cassim

In Harare, Zimbabwe – During the month of March, celebrations of remarkable women from various fields takes place globally. Among these exceptional women is Grace Nasho Zhuwakina, a ranger at Akashinga, located in the remote regions of the country.

After many years of working as a housekeeper in Songo, Binga, along the shores of Lake Kariba, Grace’s life took a turn when Akashinga assumed the lease and became her employer.

Growing up in a world where wildlife rangers were predominantly men, Grace never envisioned that her daughter, Loice, would join the ranks of Akashinga. After being selected and undergoing intensive training nearly two years ago, Loice, now 24, reflects on how Akashinga opened up new opportunities for her.

Raised by her grandmother in Sinamsanga Village after the passing of her mother, who was Grace’s sister, Loice found a new home within Grace’s family. Despite facing limited opportunities in her remote upbringing, Loice had aspirations of securing work as a domestic helper in town, assisting Grace with household chores.

Acknowledging her past unruliness and lack of direction in her teenage years, Loice credits the inspiring dedication of the female rangers at Akashinga for igniting her ambition for something greater. She also attributes her mother, Grace, with instilling the discipline that has proven invaluable in her role as an Akashinga ranger.

Apart from her ranger duties, Loice’s active pursuit of a driver’s licence aims to broaden her work horizons with Akashinga, enabling her to travel across Zimbabwe and beyond. This development has brought joy to Grace, who witnesses Loice’s transformation into a self-sufficient individual chasing her dreams—a testament to how Akashinga has enriched their lives.

“I am very happy to see my daughter as a ranger,” Grace says. “She has transformed her behaviour and lifestyle. Akashinga has enabled both of us to live better lives than before.”

Akashinga, originally named the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), was founded in 2009 by Australian-born and Zimbabwean-based environmentalist Damien Mander.

In 2017, Mander recruited the initial team of 16 female rangers in the Lower Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe. 

These women became the first Akashinga Rangers (the Brave Ones in the Shona language).

They embarked on a mission to safeguard Zimbabwe’s wildlife from the devastating impact of poaching, and this marked the beginning of the organisation’s collaborative approach, working directly with local communities to tackle the challenges of illegal wildlife trade and environmental degradation.

Presently, the organisation is extending its influence across multiple countries, establishing a legacy of sustainable, female-led conservation that traces back to the dedication of those initial 16 rangers.

The impact of the female-led conservation efforts reverberates throughout the community, igniting a cascade of positive impacts.

From nurturing children’s education to bolstering healthcare, eradicating poverty, and boosting life expectancy, these ripple effects leave a lasting legacy.

Credit: Part of this story was originally published in the Akashinga Newsletter and was re-written with consent from Akashinga.

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