Exploring achievement across cultures, industries and artistries, the list was put together by FT journalists from dozens of international bureaux, former women of the year and readers — with entries commissioned by some of the world’s most powerful women.
Paula was nominated by Amina Mohamed, former Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya and ambassador to the UN
“Paula has the ability to look at conservation issues as a whole, identify the priorities – where the dangers are real, where extinction is a real possibility – and address them. Many people are capable of doing the advocacy. She is unique in raising issues and providing possible solutions too. She’s a serious thinker and a pragmatic person. She is also a pioneer who chose a field that is not comfortable for many women.” — Amina Mohamed
CEO of Kenya-based NGO Wildlife Direct, Paula passionately believes that the loss of the nation’s wildlife is an environmental and humanitarian injustice, and Africans themselves should take the lead in securing the future of the continent’s wildlife.
In Kenya, wildlife faces multiple pressures: elephants, rhinos, pangolins and many other species are targeted by poachers to supply the global illegal wildlife trade, which generates millions for kingpin criminals, exploits local communities and takes advantage of lax laws.
The destruction and degradation of natural habitat that wild species need to survive, is arguably the biggest threat. Backed by powerful interest groups that override environmental concerns with impunity, unchecked development including large-scale agriculture, mining and infrastructure is transforming wildlife corridors and buffer zones adjacent to iconic protected areas.
Winning a Whitley Award and Continuation Funding has supported Paula in pioneering a new approach that protects the country’s wildlife while recognising Kenyans’ legitimate aspirations for economic development. She empowers communities with local knowledge and information, by producing and presenting Africa’s first wildlife documentary series made by Africans, “Wildlife Warriors”, which she ensures is broadcast in-country, to those who live in closest proximity to the issues being aired.
With support from her 2021 Gold Award, Paula is increasing accountability, transparency and local participation in decision making, while strengthening environmental law and its application to secure justice for people and wildlife. She is achieving this through defending critical wildlife areas under threat from the privatisation of community-owned grazing lands, infrastructure development, large-scale farming and mining – as well as helping to mitigate human-wildlife conflict by setting up an Environmental Justice Desk that empowers citizens and organisations to respond to threats to wildlife at a local and national level.
Paula acts as an ambassador for “Justice for People and Wildlife” as an approach to conservation that could be replicated elsewhere in Africa and around the world, and is engaging fellow WFN alumni to help raise awareness and boost pride in African conservation heroes and their work via her TV show, “Wildlife Warriors”