This last August was yet another inspiring Women’s Month. Women from all walks of life came together in a spirit of solidarity at a host of events that took place around the country. What was once one dedicated public holiday (August 9th), is now a month-long campaign to champion the rights of South African women and to honor and celebrate their incredible prowess, strength and inner fortitude.
Women’s Day itself is dedicated to the 20,000 plus brave women who staged a peaceful march to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest apartheid pass laws. To this day, women across South Africa are faced with a myriad of challenges, and Women’s Month is an opportunity for women to unite and work towards making positive changes in every aspect of our society. Countless, inspiring stories are shared daily of women making a tangible difference in their communities and kicking serious butt!!
Within our own local community there are many women that serve to inspire us on a daily basis. Perhaps due to the nature of our business, we are most inspired by local women who fight tirelessly for the protection of our environment. The diverse natural beauty of our area serves to lure many thousands of visitors each year and the tourism industry is one of Knysna’s primary economic drivers, which is why the sustainable use and protection of our natural resources is so important. Our own long term survival as a species is directly linked to the health of the planet as a whole.
One of the leading champions of our local environment is Sue Swain, an ardent conservationist and founder of Biowise Solutions, a local NGO that promotes the practice of biomimicry. Swain believes that we need to look toward nature to find the environmental solutions we need and that in order to thrive on our planet, we need to learn from it. She is inspiring the community to draw lessons from our forest and to apply them in our everyday lives. She is continually coming up with innovative ideas for sustainability and encourages the local Knysna community to come up with lucrative solutions when it comes to managing our waste with the guiding principle being ‘it’s not waste until it’s wasted”.
Another one of our local female environmental soldiers is Louw Claasens, Director of the Knysna Basin Project. Her mission: to ensure the survival of the Knysna seahorse, one of the rarest estuarine species in the world. She understands that everything is intrinsically connected, and that in order for this iconic species to survive and thrive, the Knysna Estuary and all the other life is sustains, needs to be healthy. Of the 297 estuaries in South Africa, the Knysna Estuary is ranked as the most important in terms of biodiversity significance. The Knysna Basin Project has played an important role in the conservation of this precious and legendary liquid-landscape since 1995.
This scientific based non-profit organisation focuses on the continued research of the Knysna Basin and their primary objective is not only to study and monitor the health of the estuary, which teems with life in many shapes and forms, but also to create awareness. They believe a heightened environmental consciousness will aid in the conservation and sustainable use of its resources both now and in the future.
We would also like to shine a spotlight on all the dedicated female (and men, course) SANparks Honorary Rangers. They are involved in numerous local conservation efforts and their contribution is manifested in countless ways, such as raising valuable funds, creating vital public awareness, and getting involved in river and estuary clean-ups. Essentially, they supply much needed manpower to assist in the various conservation, tourism and environmental education needs within SANParks.
One of their most significant contributions, is that week after week, they volunteer their precious time to cleaning up the litter found strewn along the banks of the Knysna Estuary. Not only do they collect an enormous amount of plastic pollution that would otherwise find its way out to sea, but they also meticulously log the type of waste found in order to implement environmental and educational campaigns in the future.
I would also like to take the time to honor and celebrate the women ocean warriors of our Ocean Odyssey team, who continually go above and beyond the call of duty to help conserve our region’s precious waterscapes. They all work faithfully to inspire positive change, educate the local community about the importance of a healthy marine and estuarine environment and also organize and take part in regular beach and Knysna Estuary litter clean ups. Each one of us has been touched and transformed in some way by the beauty of Knysna’s watery world and the incredible web of life which it sustains. And this is why we are so fiercely passionate about protecting it.