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Meet Great Plains Female Ranger : Kelebemang Elijah

How did you start a career as a female ranger? What is your background?

I’m a 33-year-old female ranger, the lastborn of five hailing from a village called Sekondombo up in the northern reaches Okavango Delta panhandle. I grew up in the wilderness setting with this only igniting my passion for nature. The need to know more drove me to pursue a career in relation to my passion and dreams so it really comes from the heart. Education was not easily accessible as I had to walk 14 kilometres every day for my first 7 years of schooling as we did not have a primary school in our village. Prior to becoming a ranger, I was working in the tourism industry which provided me with the knowledge of how sensitive our biodiversity is, needing our care and responsibility for it. This opportunity was presented to me by Great Plains Foundation, and I feel privileged to be one of the first female rangers in my country.

What are your favourite aspects of your job?

The patrols. I’m an outdoor person so patrolling gives me an exposure to nature where I learn new things every single day.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a Female Ranger?

Gender inequality. Until recently it was rare for a woman to be part of the ranger force in Botswana, especially working on the front lines.  Although this is gradually changing, the hardships we face just because we are women, can seem overwhelming.  For one thing, being a ranger lies outside the bounds of female stereotypes and norms. Ranger workforces are mostly male dominated, and women who do enter these domains are often made to feel unwelcome.

How do you try to ensure your safety at work? What are the largest risks?

My day-to-day life involves encountering potentially dangerous animals during our field patrols. We have vehicles that we use during some patrols, so that way we are safe while we work. This together with my guiding and bush craft skills I am equipped with, I’m able to approach animals without provoking them.

Where do you see your career going over the next few years? What goals would you like to achieve?

I want to see myself in a place of leadership within the Ranger Force hierarchy and able to recruit and empower more women, not only to become rangers but to build strong women with a conservation mindset. I want to make a difference in the fight against the illegal exploitation of wildlife, while also ensuring that women are given an upper hand in the society.

Have you noticed a rise in female colleagues in your industry? What do you think the future holds for female rangers?

Days are gone where women are treated as inferior. I see women becoming learned, holding positions such as nature guides, that before were dominated by males only.

The future is bright for female rangers. There’s a massive career growth coming up as there are getting trained in this job. Their literacy is increasing day by day. I see them being powerful leaders, conservationists who are up for change and becoming role models to their communities.