New Indigenous Women Fellows Announced

Conservation International has announced two women from northern Kenya as the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship recipients for 2021–2022. The Fellowship will support Ellie Modesta and Marison Lemukut to uplift the voices and participation of rural indigenous women within their communities in the sustainable management of natural resources.

Ellie Modesta is a Samburu woman from a pastoralist community in northern Kenya. Orphaned from a young age, Ellie raised her seven siblings on her own, persevering against retrogressive cultural practices that made it difficult for young women in her community to use their voice. Today, Ellie is a champion of women’s empowerment, in her community and beyond, working to elevate the voices of the less privileged women in her community, including widows, single parents, youth, and people living with disabilities. Through the support of the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship, Ellie will conduct research on human-wildlife conflict and the direct impact these conflicts have on women. Through her research, Ellie hopes to inform women’s participation in decision making concerning community conservation and rangeland management.

Marison Lemukut is from Ruko Conservancy in northern Kenya. She grew up in a community where women had very little influence over resource use and were rarely involved in decision-making. Overcoming these challenges, Marison went to school, graduated with a focus in economics, and returned to her community to work with women and girls to build awareness of their rights, challenge social norms that negatively affect them, and nurture their leadership capacity. With the support of the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship, Marison will support leadership training and a girls’ sanitary pad initiative in Ruko Conservancy, with the goal of encouraging community women to take up competitive leadership positions, solve security issues and conserve the environment and wildlife.

Women play a key role in environmental stewardship, yet persistent barriers including land and resource rights, formal education requirements and exclusionary decision-making processes can result in conservation efforts that are inequitable and unsustainable.

Through the Indigenous Women’s Fellowship, Ellie and Marison’s efforts will help to ensure that rural indigenous women of northern Kenya are able to participate meaningfully in the governance of natural resources, and that their contributions to climate and biodiversity conservation are acknowledged and uplifted.

Ellie and Marison’s fellowships are funded through generous support from the AKO Foundation and Conservation International’s Rising Women Fund.