International Women’s Day: A woman’s place is in … the environment. These women in Goa show the way.

Since time immemorial, women have silently rendered yeoman service outside of their homes, making a difference in a variety of fields. Find out how 5 women are doing their bit to preserve the ecology and environment.
International Women’s Day: A woman’s place is in … the environment. These women in Goa show the way.

This International Women's Day, spread the love of nature

Gomantak Times

On March 8 every year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day — a day dedicated to women, and also a platform to speak about women’s issues and take a look at their contribution to society.

Many people may argue that these topics need to be aired throughout the year, and not just on one day as women work tirelessly, 24x7—be it as homemakers, professionals, teachers, farmers, etc.

That’s true in many ways, and nowadays women are also involved in many non-traditional professions, such as the field of wildlife, ecology and environment, and are coming forward to speak about issues related to ecology, as women are more in tune with nature. They have a better understanding of their backyard biodiversity, are skilled in gardening, and are excellent plant seed savers, which directly impacts our food security.

Taking a cue from this, this Women’s Day, we focus on a few such women from Goa, who are working in the field of wildlife, environmental education, waste management and ecology, in general. The best part is that they are passionate about what they do, and love to share their knowledge, create awareness, and in the long run, bring a positive change in our society, helping us to live in harmony with nature.

1. Dr Usha Desai

A trained tree expert, and a doctor by profession, at 82, she is a force to reckon with. She may look petite and frail, but when she starts speaking about plants, trees, butterflies and moths, there’s a spark in her eyes, and a child-like energy which is contagious.

Dr Usha, who is now based in Goa, used to conduct tree walks in the concrete jungle of Mumbai with her friend, Renee Vyas. They conducted more than 100 walks until the lockdown of 2020 brought these sessions to a grinding halt. She even conducted walks in Goa and inspired many youngsters to look upwards and observe trees and the biodiversity around them.

The best part about her journey is that she started learning about trees only after her retirement. In her 60s, she did a six-week course in Botany with the Bombay Natural History Society, followed by a one-year course in entomology and biodiversity. She followed that up with a six-week course in Voluntary Training at Conservation Education Centre, Mumbai.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Dr Usha Desai's mantra for saving trees is simple 'If you love a tree, you will not cut it.'</p></div>

Dr Usha Desai's mantra for saving trees is simple 'If you love a tree, you will not cut it.'

PIC COURTESY: Arti Das

Her tree walks are peppered with information about trees, with references from local folklore, mythology, films and even recipes, and not scientific knowledge alone. However, she is very scientific in her approach and equips herself with images of trees and fruits, reference books, and a little box of found materials — seeds, leaves, etc. She also does a recce before the walk and selects around 20 trees, so that one can learn in a more enhanced way.

Her mantra for saving trees is simple. “The tree walk will help you fall in love with trees. Thus, when you love a tree, you will not cut that tree, and that’s how we will be able to save our trees.”

2. Tallulah D’Silva

Tallulah D’Silva is a trained architect and an environmental educator who believes in sharing her knowledge with children through nature trails, conducting various interactive, skill learning activities, where she believes in giving practical experience to children.

For more than a decade, she has been promoting outdoor learning, where students, children, youth, and mixed groups are taken outdoors to learn about nature, history, the environment, and taking action by engaging in community initiatives. During the pandemic, she also co-founded the Backyard Class and the Community Classroom to engage neighbourhood children in learning beyond the virtual platform of online classes. These children are now learning life skills like farming, music, craft, art, theater, etc.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Tallulah D’Silva wants to inculcate a love of nature, history and the environment in young people</p></div>

Tallulah D’Silva wants to inculcate a love of nature, history and the environment in young people

Gomantak Times

These children, under Tallulah’s leadership, have also taken part in various socio-ecological campaigns like No-Coal or ‘Kolso Naka’, saving of fields in Taleigao, and Save Mollem campaign to name a few.

Tallulah believes that such activities and community learning is not just for some performance or to get some extra marks for children, but to build values. “It is important to build values, have ownership of our land. To be committed to something, is the large part of the teaching I do,” she says.

3. Dr Maryanne Lobo

She is a holistic health expert with 18 years of experience, who specialises in Panchakarma, where she treats patients suffering from lifestyle diseases. Along with this practice, she is now also involved in various walks — village walks (where she speaks about the biodiversity of the village) or plateau walks (where she educates others about the wild plants, flowers, etc) and edible walks (where she speaks about fruits which are wild and edible). Here she focuses on what to eat, how to harvest, which season, etc.

She also does medicinal walks, where she explains how to identify medicinal plants and learn their uses. Recently, she started a ‘Cook What You Forage With’ walk.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Dr Maryanne Lobo focuses on the largely ignored wild flora of Goa, and especially its medicinal and edible value</p></div>

Dr Maryanne Lobo focuses on the largely ignored wild flora of Goa, and especially its medicinal and edible value

Gomantak Times

She is the proud owner of an heirloom seed bank and runs a community wellness initiative called ‘Women You Are Worth It’. With her vast experience in permaculture, she grows part of the food she eats.

Dr Maryanne also advocates the conservation of wild and open spaces, like plateaus, as they are full of medicinal wild plants and flowers which need to be identified and conserved.

She believes that nature is the best healer and during her walks and talks, she emphasizes equipping oneself with the knowledge of local and backyard plants, which can help us to lead a healthy life and in turn have a healthy generation ahead.

4. Shraddha Rangnekar

Shraddha is involved in various wildlife and environment-related events — whether being part of discovering the long-horned beetle species after 150 years, or registering Goa’s first Eco-tourism cooperative society, Aangan in Netravali, or working on waste management practices.

With a master’s in Zoology and also a post-graduate degree in ecology and environment, she is currently a partner at Mrugaya Xpeditions, an eco-travel company based out of Goa. She is also the founder of the Foundation for Environment Research and Conservation — a non-profit organisation that motivates and supports youth and the community to bring about a change in society through different environmental projects such as citizen science, outreach programs, solid waste management, and wildlife documentation.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Bringing a change in society through  citizen science, outreach programs, solid waste management and wildlife documentation is what drives Shraddha Rangnekar </p></div>

Bringing a change in society through citizen science, outreach programs, solid waste management and wildlife documentation is what drives Shraddha Rangnekar

Gomantak Times

These days, she is busy working on a plastic waste management project in Vasco, and is primarily

co-coordinating the IEC (Information Education and Communication) related activities in the city. Through the program, she has kick-started an initiative called the ‘Sort Small To Make A Big Difference’ under the Wednesdays for Waste program of the project, where people are encouraged to segregate their waste, and drop it at the recycling collection centres on designated days.

Her other focus has also been providing social support and other opportunities for people working in the waste sector, especially the municipal waste pickers. She believes they too deserve recognition, respect, and better working conditions for their well-being and the invaluable service they provide for keeping our cities clean.

5. Harshada Gauns

She is a trained Zoologist with seven years experience in conducting and implementing biodiversity-based research, and three years working closely with the communities in Goa. Currently, she is engaged as an assistant professor in the Department of Zoology at the Government College of Arts Science and Commerce, Sanquelim, Goa. She is also the founder of Arannya Environment Research Organization (AERO), Secretary of the Goa Bird Conservation Network, and Biodiversity Management committee (Navelim).

For the past decade, she has worked closely with school children and the youth of Goa, teaching them about Goa’s wildlife through indoor sessions, nature trails, camps, workshops, etc.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Harshada Gauns is passionate about&nbsp;the local fauna and enlightens&nbsp;school children and the youth about it through  nature trails, camps, workshops, etc.</p></div>

Harshada Gauns is passionate about the local fauna and enlightens school children and the youth about it through nature trails, camps, workshops, etc.

GomantakTimes

She is now involved in assessing Goa’s environmental literacy. “I have noticed that kids do know a little about nature, but once they reach college, they have no clue. I want to understand why that is happening,” she says.

Her long-term vision is to help create a society that lives sustainably with nature. “I believe that policies alone may not inspire people to change. Positive change needs to be made accessible to communities, and efforts need to be localised. The need of the hour is to have maximum people participation in spreading awareness,” she asserts.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>This International Women's Day, spread the love of nature</p></div>
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