Trang Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of WildAct.
Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in conservation?
Dian Fossey definitely had a big impact in my career choice. I remember when I was very small and back in the day where wildlife conservation was a very new concept in Vietnam, I watched Gorillas in the Mist. I had some very first ideas of what conservationists and conservation researchers do through the movie, and I researched some more about her [Dian]. Her story was very inspiring, her determination, the way she overcame hardship… it was all very touching and inspirational.
Which topic are you working on at the moment? Why did you choose this topic and how do you think you’ll make a difference?
Recently myself and my organisation started a completely new programme called Empowering Women in Wildlife Conservation. It might sound not modest, but we are the first wildlife conservation organisation in Vietnam to be implementing this programme. We aim to provide a safer and better working environment for female conservationists, to make our workplace free from gender-based violence and sexual harassment. We believe that by empowering and engaging women and gender minorities in our sector, the diversity of workplace will benefit conservation efforts.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome? Did you ever have the impression that it would be easier/harder if you were male?
I think one of the hardest obstacles for me and my organisation is that we are a women-led and run organisation. We are the only organisation in Vietnam where all members are women, and young women, with me being the oldest at the age of 30! So, it can be very challenging with our day-to-day work. People, including our partners, might not take us seriously because of cultural-social norms in Vietnam. I think in many cases it would be a lot easier if I was an older male conservationist. But I also think a young female conservationist has its advantages. And as mentioned above, with our new programme being funded by the USAID Rise Challenge, we will definitely make our voices be heard!
In your opinion, what changes and where, are needed in the world of conservation for more women to engage in conservation and have an impact?
I can already see that there are more and more young women in Vietnam interested in wildlife conservation and eager to get involved. However, gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, is one of the biggest issues we are facing. Women might quit the sector completely if the working environment is not safe enough for them. For example, from our online survey in 2020, we found out that 1 in every 6 wildlife conservationists were sexually harassed, and most of the victims were female! That is a very worrying number, and we are working hard to change that.
It is important that women in conservation feel respected and safe in our sector. Only then can they contribute their talents and excel to become leaders in our field.