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International Women’s Day — The Women of the Fossey Fund

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In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Fossey Fund is celebrating some of the many women who are in the field working to ensure that our critical conservation work continues. As a female-founded and female-led organization, we know that women can make a difference, and we want the world to see the impact of these amazing women who are on the front lines of conservation today!

Divine Marinos
Treasurer and Purchasing Associate- DRC

Since she was a child, Divine wanted to study and become an independent woman. As a young girl, she went to live with relatives in Bukavu, where she studied to become a nurse. Although she loved living in the city, Divine aspired to return to her home region, where she hoped to use her skills to improve the conditions in which people live in this remote region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Drawn to the values and projects of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Nkuba, where we protect her beloved forest and the critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas while also supporting local community development, Divine joined our organization in October 2019. A skilled manager, she has become invaluable to the team, taking care of daily logistics at the base. Thanks to Divine, our teams know they’ll have enough to eat when they leave for their two-week patrols in the rainforest. 

“I enjoy all of the tasks that are part of my job here in Nkuba, because it allows me to get closer to the community to which I belong and raise awareness about the importance of educating girls as well as boys,” she says. This is a crucial issue in Nkuba, where most girls do not finish primary school. Things are changing, though, thanks in part to the Fossey Fund, which pays school fees for many young girls in Nkuba, and with the help of strong-willed and courageous women like Divine. “It is difficult to hire women here in Nkuba,” she explains, “because most of the work is carried out in the forest, where conditions are tough. But I hope there will be more women working at the base in the future.”

Honorine Ihimbazwe
Research Assistant- Rwanda

Honorine first came to the Fossey Fund in 2018, as a biology student from the University of Rwanda. In 2019, Honorine became a full-time researcher with the Fossey Fund. She is dedicated to working in the forest, where she spends most of her time collecting behavioral data on mountain gorillas. Honorine love watching gorillas, especially infants, and she enjoys the work in the forest.

“On this Women’s Day, I appreciate the effort of women all over the world, especially the ones working in the field to protect wildlife,” says Honorine, “They work passionately, regardless of how difficult it is. This day should remind all women that we can achieve anything if we believe and fight for it.”

Axelle Kamanzi
Researcher and PhD Candidate

Axelle Kamanzi, a PhD candidate at George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C., started her research through the Fossey Fund in 2018. Axelle joined the doctoral program at GWU in 2017, where she studies primate feeding ecology, nutrition and conservation.  Axelle’s dissertation research focuses on understanding the development of feeding behavior in mountain gorillas inhabiting a heterogeneous habitat within Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Axelle says she is grateful for the opportunity to conduct her research fieldwork in VNP and for the incredible support and mentorship she gets from the Fossey Fund.

“Never give up,” advises Axelle. “You have to push on through in your education. I am happy to be among female conservationists and to have the opportunity to do research on mountain gorillas and contribute to their conservation.”

Aline Uwera
Finance Assistant-Karisoke Research Center

Aline joined Fossey Fund in 2011 as an intern in the finance and administration department, and in 2012 she was hired as our full-time staff finance assistant. Aline’s responsibilities include processing payments, ensuring supply contracts are valid, and assisting in the repair and maintenance of fleet and facilities (vehicles, office, residential houses and camping sites). After 10 years with the Fossey Fund, she has become an expert in gorillas and their conservation, as she organizes everything that is needed by our field teams for their critical gorilla monitoring and protection work. 

“My message on International Women’s Day is that capable, empowered women can change society,” says Aline. “I am always motivated and encouraged by the women I know, who work tirelessly to protect mountain gorillas.”

Marie Fidele Tuyisenge
Research Assistant-Biodiversity program

Marie Fidele has been part of our capacity building program since 2016, when she came to the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center as a student to work on her bachelor thesis before becoming a professional intern. Marie Fidele is an expert botanist. For her memoir thesis, which was recently published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, she developed a simple and environmentally friendly field method for fecal analysis of herbivore diet. Marie Fidele is now a research assistant in our biodiversity program, working in the Karisoke herbarium as well as monitoring tree growth in the nursery at our new Ellen Campus. 

“Working with the Fossey Fund has been a great experience,” says Marie Fidele. “As a female scientist, I am proud to be part of Karisoke’s biodiversity research team, as it allows me to learn more about biodiversity while contributing to the conservation and protection of mountain gorillas and their habitat.”

Grâce Hamuli-Neema
HR and Finances Administration Assistant

Passionate about sustainable development, Grâce came to work at the Fossey Fund office in Goma in November 2018. A single mother of two, she worked full-time as our human resources and finance assistant while simultaneously completing her master’s degree at the ISIG institute of Goma. In December 2020, she completed her master’s thesis, “Contribution of the activities of DFGF to the socio-economic development of the population of Nkuba in the Walikale territory.” While she enjoys accounting, she also wants to expand her knowledge of gorilla conservation and hopes one day to join the patrols in the forests of Nkuba. Grâce is proud to be part of the Fossey team. “The Fossey Fund employs women like me, and not only for jobs like cleaning and cooking,” Grace says. “They understand that women can bring something more in the organization, which is good because it is hard for women to find good work here in Congo. And when they do, they must often prove themselves more than men.” Grâce enjoys working on woman-centered projects in Nkuba, like the women’s association of the UTDPE, and hopes to see more such projects developed in the future.