Celebrating International Day of the Girl with Team Sloth

Celebrating International Day of the Girl with Team Sloth

October 11th is International Day of the Girl. This is a day to recognize the issues that girls face globally and to break down barriers to their empowerment and success. This year the motto is “My voice, our equal future“: a call to action that emphasizes how the well-being of humanity and the planet depends upon the future of girls.

Conservation is inextricably linked to the welfare of girls and women. They are often responsible for providing life-giving resources to the family and therefore interact closely with the environment on a daily basis. In Africa, women manage 90% of their households’ water and fuel needs. In South Asia, 70% of employed women work in agriculture. But despite their strong connection to the natural world, less than 20% of world’s landowners are women.

woman farmer rice fields
A woman planting rice in the paddy fields of the island of Don Puay, Laos/Photo: Basile Morin/CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Forging another path

Attaining equal rights for women and girls may seem like a thing of the past, when all the countries in the world (with the exception of Vatican City) have made it legal for women to vote. However barriers to women participating in democracy still abound. In Pakistan for example, although the polls are technically open to women, many women face violence when trying to cast their vote or are prevented from voting by men and village leaders. This problem has its roots in childhood, when girls, such as Malala, are denied access to education. As a result, women make up 2/3 of the world’s illiterate people.

The default “life plan” for many girls around the globe is find a partner and raise children. Although an admirable endeavor, it is often their only choice. When girls are given access to education and granted the same opportunities as their male peers, doors they didn’t know existed are suddenly opened to them. Educating girls creates a ripple effect that can be felt globally. Among its many positive impacts, education leads to improvements in family planning, thus slowing the pace of population growth, improving the health of children, and paving the way for a more just and sustainable society.

community-outreach education girls
Teaching girls about sloths and the natural world is pivotal to the success of community-based conservation/Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp3R6aylDH4

Girls in conservation

Despite the increasing popularity of biology and ecology among women, they are still under-represented within the conservation field. They are particularly absent from leadership positions, bumping up against glass ceilings and other obstacles to getting promoted.

To address this issue, the Girl Scoutsfoster female leadership from a young age: helping girls to build the skills and the confidence to take matters into their own hands.

So in honor of International Day of the Girl, we would like to highlight the incredible work of these young female conservationists.

Our Director of Education and Outreach, Sarah Kennedy has been engaging with the Girl Scouts through educational zoom sessions about sloths. Concerned by the various problems that sloths face, several of the girl scouts took the initiative to create videos to raise awareness about sloths.

girl scout education youth activism
Girl scout speaking up for sloths and what we can do to help them/Video: Robin and the Girl Scouts of Troop SU 52-07

Troubled by the lack of opportunities for women and girls in her field, the incredibly talented wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas started the organization Girls Who Click: a mentorship program to give girls the tools and the guidance they need to become photographers and conservationists.

girls conservation education photography
Suzi Eszterhas mentoring a young female photographer through her Girls Who Click program./Video: https://girlswhoclick.org/our-vision-mission/

Given the right guidance and the space to take up the spotlight, girls can begin to flourish. With a little encouragement, the way that girls perceive themselves and their role in society begins to transform and as a result the world around them.

Female-powered Team Sloth

SloCo is largely powered by women, from our Founder and Executive Director Dr. Rebecca Cliffe to our predominantly female Team Sloth. Having been girls ourselves we understand what kinds of obstacles exist for women and girls, especially in science. International Day of the Girl is an opportunity to take stock of how far we’ve come, and ask ourselves: how can we continue to empower the next generation of women?

sloth mother baby two-toed sloth
Sloth mothers are a force to be reckoned with, teaching their babies what it takes to be a sloth for a full year./Photo: Suzi Eszterhas