Singer Rankin on empowering women

Nepalese community organizer Harigala Almathir.

Singer Rankin's involvement with WWF goes back decades and was, in many ways, a catalyst for her conservation-based career. Two decades ago, Rankin, who had served as president of the Pittsburgh Zoological Society, founded WorldWomenWork, a nonprofit organization that promotes conservation through the education and empowerment of women. She served many years on WWF’s Board of Directors and is currently a member of WWF’s National Council and the Legacy Circle, a group of individuals who help protect the future of nature by including WWF in their estate plans.

Where did your love for nature begin?
I grew up in West Virginia with horses, dogs, and other animals, and was surrounded by nature. I spent a lot of time on horseback with my father and friends, galloping across the beautiful countryside that was my backyard. In my family, spending time in the wild was sacred—and that had a profound impact on me. I was very fortunate, and believe wholeheartedly that those experiences are why I have such a deep love for and connection to nature today. Nature fuels my soul.

What inspired you to make promoting conservation through empowering women your life’s work?
Empowering women is key to reducing poverty and conserving the natural world. Women are the backbone of their communities. In the 1990s, I traveled to Nepal with Kathryn Fuller (WWF president and CEO from 1989 to 2005). During this trip, I had an opportunity to see WWF’s conservation efforts up close and observe the vitally important role women play in managing natural resources. I was at 10,000 feet on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain, when something clicked, and I realized I needed to do more to empower and support women. And so WorldWomenWork was born. I am grateful to WWF for the remarkable job it does around the world, and for inspiring me to play a greater role in supporting women and conservation. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how powerful our work would be, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Why is conserving the Northern Great Plains important to you?
I see a lot of similarities between Africa, where I’ve spent a lot of time, and the Northern Great Plains: the vastness of the wild, the strength of the women I’ve met there, and the threats to iconic species like elephants and bison. Their natural magnificence is unparalleled, but the threats to their future are many. I hope that through my involvement in WWF’s Northern Great Plains Advisory Committee, I can play a part in ensuring that the North American prairie, its communities, and its extraordinary wildlife continue to thrive.

Nepalese community organizer Harigala Almathir.

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