The Black MambasThis August, the Black Mambas, a nonprofit anti-poaching unit in South Africa, won the Eco-Warrior Silver Award for its work combating poaching. This is one of many awards it has earned since its establishment in 2003. Not only is this organization making impressive strides to reduce poaching, it is also addressing South Africa’s unequal social climate. The Black Mambas is comprised solely of women and is the first all-female anti-poaching faction in the world.

In South Africa, poverty disproportionately impacts women. Over 13 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, and most of these individuals are women. In female-headed households, the incidence of poverty increased to 50 percent, while increasing only 33 percent in male-headed households. Women own only one percent of land in South Africa.

The Black Mambas unit presents a unique employment opportunity for South African women. The job is a skilled position, requiring extensive training, which is not often offered to female workers. Balule Nature Reserve, where the Black Mambas operate, is located in Limpopo, one of South Africa’s most impoverished provinces. In Limpopo, even the minimum wage salary given to the 32 Black Mambas, many of whom are mothers, allows them to afford housing and schooling for their children.

The achievements of the Black Mambas unit has made it a source of pride in South Africa. The organization has accomplished significant anti-poaching milestones. This year, only eight rhino kills have been reported within the Black Mambas’ territory, though roughly 3.5 rhinos are poached each day throughout South Africa. Overall, poaching activities have decreased by 76 percent since the Black Mambas came on the scene.

The Black Mambas unit is additionally viewed as a successful public works project that has not only given women a source of employment, but also a voice in their communities. The women teach the importance of their anti-poaching efforts in schools through the Bush Babies Environmental Education Program. They have become role models for young South African girls.

Even beyond the work of the Black Mambas, advances in womens’ status are being made throughout South Africa. In 2014, over 40 percent of South Africa’s cabinet and parliament positions were headed by women. A 2010 census found that more than half of South African women contribute to their country’s GDP. Fifty-six percent of the HIV-infected population in South Africa is female, but between 2010 and 2011, the mother to child transmission rate decreased to 2.7 percent.

While improvements are being made, more can be done to assuage the disparate poverty status of women in South Africa. The Black Mambas is just one group bettering the lives of South African women, while also exhibiting how improvement for women can culminate in improvement for an entire nation.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr