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Russian and South African Women to Receive WWF Award for Making a Difference in Conservation

World Wildlife Fund Announces Winners of 2003 Women and Conservation Awards

Washington, DC - At an awards ceremony on June 25 in Washington, DC, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will recognize the efforts of two outstanding women for their role in conservation. Svetlana Titova of Russia and Ronwyn "Ronnie" Brereton-Stiles of South Africa will receive awards from WWF for their dedication and the advancement of conservation work in their native countries.

"Through the Women and Conservation Initiative, World Wildlife Fund seeks to raise the profile of the conservation work done by extraordinary women around the world," said Kathryn S. Fuller, president of World Wildlife Fund. "Svetlana and Ronnie are wonderful role models for other women seeking to make a difference in their communities."

This is the third year that WWF has presented the Women and Conservation Awards. These awards acknowledge exceptional achievement in two categories - a woman's contribution to conservation and an individual or organization's contribution to enhancing women's participation in conservation. Each of this year's winners will receive a cash award of $5,000 to be used for conservation activities in their countries. Previous winners include women from Mexico, Indonesia, Nepal and Namibia.

With over 2.5 million acres of Russian wilderness preserved and a new generation of conservationists poised to protect these areas, Svetlana Titova can rest a little easier. Also known as "the iron lady", Svetlana is the director of the Amur Socio-Ecological Union and has devoted her career to preserving the forests of the Amur province in her native eastern Russia. Svetlana has also inspired Russia's youth: she has organized many student druzhinas, or anti-poaching brigades, and founded the Ecological Leadership School to encourage young environmentalists to undertake conservation roles in Russia. "One person can play a huge role," Svetlana said. "I can be an example for others, and I prove myself and my passion for the nature of the Russian Far East through wilderness expeditions and all of my work." She will receive the award from WWF for her outstanding commitment to conservation.

Over the past three years, Ronnie Stiles has inspired local women of southern Africa to actively engage in protecting their natural resources. With the support of local women from the eNkovukeni community of Maputaland, northeastern South Africa, Ronnie created the Songimvelo Mussel Committee to monitor mussel harvesting and certain "no-take" zones in coastal waters. Despite considerable setbacks, Ronnie and 15 local women developed a model of sustainable mussel harvesting that neighboring communities have begun to institute in their own regions. Her unflagging perseverance under difficult circumstances demonstrates that she is respected and valued by both her conservation peers and the communities in which she works. Ronnie is being honored by WWF for her contributions to the advancement of the participation of women in conservation. "I was thrilled to receive this award. For me, it shows an acknowledgement of the part women have to play not only in conservation, but their pivotal role as agents of reconciliation and change. In the context of South Africa where we have come through many years of disunity, it was the women who stepped out and forged partnerships with conservation agents to jointly manage their natural resources," remarked Ronnie.

WWF established the Women and Conservation Initiative to recognize and expand the critical roles women play in using and managing natural resources - growing food crops and cultivating home gardens, collecting water and fuelwood for household needs, and using forest products to make foods, medicines and goods for sale as well as participate in forest and protected area management. The program emphasizes women's involvement in conservation through improving their economic outlook, enhancing their knowledge and skills, and advancing their participation in making decisions about their environments, especially in and around the Global 200, habitats that WWF has designated as conservation priorities.

In addition to the recognition awards, the Women and Conservation Initiative offers a small grants fund that supports women and conservation programs in WWF ecoregions and a Girls' Scholarships Program to support secondary education for girls as a tangible way to promote women's involvement as tomorrow's stewards and decision-makers.