Dhaka, September 15, 2012 – Ms. Khurshida Begum of Teknaf Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) managed by Forest Department of Ministry of Environment & Forests receives an “Honorable Mention” prize for the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) Wanagari Maathai Award 2012. Ms. Begum is receiving this award as a pioneer female change maker in her community and making women more visible in the conservation of natural resources including forests and wetlands. As in 2004 the Bangladesh Forest Department of Ministry of Forests & Environment and USAID’s Nishorgo Support Project established collaborative management of natural resources between the government and the local communities by operationalizing co-management committees (CMC), in 2006 Ms. Kurshida Begum (27) took a bold initiative by forming a female Community Patrol Group (CPG) with 28 women at Kerontali for the forests protection in TWS. Together, these women along with Forest Guards from Forest Department took upon challenges of sharing the responsibility of conserving the sanctuary against poaching and illegal logging under the overall supervision of CMC. This is one of the first instances of such type in Bangladesh. Now there are female patrol groups in Lawachara, Chunoti and many other forest Protected Areas of Bangladesh.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) in 2012 launched the first ever Wangari Maathai Award to honor and commemorate the impact of this extraordinary Noble Peace Prize winner woman who championed forest issues around the world. The award has been tasked to be given in recognition of outstanding contributions made by an individual to preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests and to communicate the key role forests play in rural livelihoods and the environment across generations.
Ms. Kurshida, a young widow in the most conservative (Muslim) part of the region, took the leadership in forests protection, promoting female education, contributing in workplace with male counterparts and as an extension worker for child and maternal health care with local NGOs. She was the first ever female in the locality, who advocated for conservation of unique biodiversity in the wildlife sanctuary and organized a group of fellow women to come forward in protecting TWS from illegal poaching. Ms. Begum’s efforts in protecting TWS and spreading the words about the importance of preserving biodiversity led her to be offered a position in the local Government and now she is an elected member of Union Parishad.
Ms. Khurshida Begum will be traveling to Rome, Italy, to receive the award on 27 September, during the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) World Forestry Week meeting.
Through the IPAC project, Forest Department and USAID have been successful in establishing and supporting the Nishorgo Network, a national network of forest and wetland protected areas conserved through co-management by bringing together government and community groups to share the roles, rights, and responsibilities of ecosystem conservation. By giving communities a voice in managing their own resources and providing opportunities for alternative livelihood instead of activities like poaching or illegal logging, Forest Department and USAID have assisted Bangladesh in conserving its biodiversity and increasing economic benefits to communities in and around protected areas. Healthier natural areas and improved, diversified livelihoods help to cope with climate change impacts like floods, cyclones, and droughts. Currently, USAID’s IPAC project works in 18 of the 34 forest protected areas managed across Bangladesh by Forest Department of the Ministry of Environment & Forests.