Communicate and connect: Interview with Grace Mwaura, leader of the IUCN World Parks Congress stream ‘inspiring a new generation’

22 August 2014 | Article

Based in Kenya, Grace Mwaura is a co-founder of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change where she currently serves as Policy and Communications Advisor.

How did you come to be involved with protected areas?

My first volunteer work as an undergraduate was at an orphanage, taking care of young elephants whose mothers had been poached. Since then I have come to appreciate the role of protected areas in safeguarding our wildlife, protected areas more broadly and the people who depend on them.

Why are you passionate about protected areas?

It is the rational thing to be passionate about. My particular interest in conservation has been how we communicate and engage. As a Kenyan, I have daily interaction with the realities, benefits and impacts of protected areas on people, the economy, culture and politics.

I have become passionate about the things that connect the systems of the world I live in, and protected areas are at the centre of these systems. I am passionate about the avenues available for us to communicate these connections and engage people across generations in sustaining them.

Why is your stream important?

‘Inspiring a new generation’ means more than just a congress stream. It’s about enabling a generation to truly understand the need for protected areas and mobilising their energy and passion towards supporting long term plans for the sustenance of protected areas.

The generations we aim at reaching through this stream might be disengaged, unaware, unconcerned, or tied up by other life circumstances. We need this stream to reconnect, refocus their priorities, and re-inspire their understanding of the connectedness of nature.

Why did you want to be a stream leader for the Congress?

This stream aims at reaching mostly young people. As a young person, I consider myself to be familiar with the issues affecting my peers, but I am also aware of the need to be in a position to make change happen for this new generation of conservationists.

As a stream leader, I am looking forward to supporting the running of events at the Congress that will bring together young and old alike, to share experiences, learn from one another and go back to their countries inspired to keep nature alive.

As a co-convener of the Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainability and the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, I consider myself playing the role of a connector and communicator.

What do you hope the IUCN World Parks Congress achieves?

Firstly, I am hoping that a new generation, old and young, will be inspired to become leaders in the conservation community. I am also hoping that in Australia, a global movement of people, of diverse cultures, backgrounds, and ages, will be born. This is the movement - the generation - that will revolutionise our perceptions of nature, how we use nature and how we politicise nature. This is the movement that will safeguard our protected areas for generations beyond this century. Having worked with youth movements before, I can’t wait to see the impacts of this stream on the next generation of conservation leaders around the world.

What’s been your most memorable experience within a protected area?

Spending a day at the Luneburg Heath Nature Reserve in summer 2013, and just marveling at the blooming heathland; something we don’t have in tropical countries like mine. It’s because the area is protected that I had the pleasure of enjoying its serenity. How can I communicate these life-changing experiences of nature to others, and engage them in appreciating and taking part in the protection of nature?