12 Jun IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE #BLM MOVEMENT: A NOTE FROM OUR FOUNDER AND CEO, DR GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA
I am an African Woman, the Founder of the NGO Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and Uganda’s first Wildlife Vet and I would like to join hands with Americans in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
I was shocked to see how George Floyd’s life came to an end in a matter of minutes at the hands of a law enforcement officer. This is the devastating result of an inbuilt impunity to racism that has been part of the infrastructure of the USA and has festered for years.
During my career of 25 years, I have also faced racism. Most of my training as a wildlife vet took place outside of Uganda; it is a profession that attracts very few people of African origin and that of itself is very notable. I spent 3 years studying in the USA and 5 years in the UK and was definitely among the minority. However, despite experiencing incidents of racism, I found that the majority of people I met, supported and encouraged me to focus on the bigger picture and fulfil my dreams.
However, this particular incident has jolted me to go one step further. I watched George Floyd’s memorial service on the BBC, and listened to the sermon by Reverend Al Sharpton where he called upon people not to remain silent, but to speak out, in order for the situation to improve for black people in America.
George Floyd’s story is one that has occurred many times in America as well as other countries but, to prevent it becoming just another statistic, there is an urgent need to rise up and reduce systemic racial discrimination at school, at work and in other spheres of life. I also want to highlight that people around the world, not only in America, face discrimination that prevents them realizing their full potential in life.
The future of wildlife in Africa and other countries in the world depends on the support of local communities who they share their fragile habitat with. Unless they value wildlife, the wildlife numbers will continue to decrease and species will continue to become extinct. At Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and its social enterprise, Gorilla Conservation Coffee, we encourage and promote local participation in conservation. We strive to engage and empower local communities, the general public, and decision and policy makers in Africa to care about their wildlife and not leave this important aspect of our natural heritage to be in the custody of others.
We endeavor to reduce discrimination in any form, including race, gender and culture. To this end, we were pleased to be part of the founding of the African Primatological Society (APS) in 2016 that was established to build African Primatological Society – APS . As Vice President of APS, I have been encouraged to see increased participation of Africans in primate research and conservation, who constituted a record 85% of participants at the APS conference we held in September 2019 in Uganda. I am also proud to be on the Women for the Environment Africa Leadership Council that, in February 2020, held a Pathways conservation conference that had a record 59% female participation.
As current and future leaders making decisions that affect the fate of primates and other wildlife, it is particularly important to nurture African leadership in the range of countries where the wildlife is found. It is also particularly important to encourage women to participate fully in conservation and development for long term gains to occur. It is encouraging to see so many protests with more white than black people, not only in America, but also in other countries. The tide is changing in the right direction and must continue. Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all how fragile life is.
Please support the #BlackLivesMatter movement and endeavor to reduce discrimination of all types in our work and lives by making a conscious effort or writing a blog or even simply listening to enable black peoples’ voices to be heard.
As Conservation Through Public Health, we stand against discrimination and prejudice and uphold values of diversity and equality. To this end, we stand together with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and strive for a better, more inclusive world for ourselves and the next generations.
Thank you again for your support
Stay Safe and Healthy
Founder and CEO Conservation Through Public Health
Plot 3 Mapera Lane
Uringi Crescent, Entebbe
541 Country Lane
Holly Springs, NC 27540
CTPH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the U.S.
Photo by Unbound Project/ Jo Anne McArthur.