Women and conservation in Loreto Bay National Marine Park, Mexico
Mueller, Eileen Marie
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As more and more coastal areas are declared protected around the world it is becoming increasingly important to integrate the local community in conservation decision-making and planning activities in order to increase their effectiveness and equability. In many protected areas, special efforts are being made to include segments of the community that have traditionally been left out of such activities, such as women. Park managers are actively seeking a better understanding of these groups in order to create more effective community outreach programs. The aim of this dissertation is to try to understand differences among women in regards to their knowledge and perceptions of environmental issues. Women who live near Loreto Bay National Marine Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico were interviewed extensively to examine the affects of household livelihood type, age and education on the women’s knowledge and perceptions of the environment, parks, and formal conservation efforts. A number of research methods were used to gather information including a free listing technique, belief frame sentences, photo elicitation technique and cultural consensus analysis. Household livelihood type (defined by the main economic activity of the woman’s household - either commercial fishing, recreational fishing, or land-bound tourism such as hotel and restaurant work) was expected to be the most significant variable of those tested in influencing women’s knowledge and perceptions of environmental issues. However, it was the post hoc analysis by level of formal education that resulted in the most significant differences among the women. This research seems to indicate a strong tie between higher levels of formal education and positive perceptions of formal conservation efforts. Education level is certainly only one of many factors that influence women’s perceptions of conservation but due to its significance in this research the connection between the two is examined at length. Various skills associated with formal education are explored and the ways in which they may affect perceptions of formal conservation efforts are examined. Recommendations are included for designing more effective community outreach programs for target audiences with low levels of formal education.