Story | 23 Mar, 2020

Aishah Abdallah wins Commission on Education and Communication Excellence Award in West Asia

In the West Asia region the jury decided to award two winners for their outstanding work completed in Communication and Education of Conservation. Aishah Abdallah is one of the proud winners. In this article she tells us what her main motivations are.

I was motivated to take up a career in wilderness leadership and environmental education by the opportunities I was given in childhood by educators in the Saudi Wildlife Authority and other mentors. They gave me enriching experiences in the wildlands of Arabia – deserts, mountains, seacoasts and introduced me to the wild inhabitants of these ecosystems, from trees to shrubs, grasses to insects, spiders, reef fishes, snakes, lizards, sea turtles, doves, cranes, vultures, ravens, ibex, oryx, gazelles, caracals, hyaenas, foxes, jerboas and hyraxes.

The activities I offer fall within the CEC’s vision of “a world that values nature for all” and its mission to strengthen conservation efforts “through creative, innovative and effective communication and education” for social and behavioral change. They support the global #NatureForAll movement to inspire a love of nature through raising awareness and motivating people, especially youth, to embrace nature and its values, to experience and connect with nature. I reach diverse audiences, female and male, rural and urban, university graduates, people who are barely literate, citizens of Saudi Arabia’s various regions, members of the royal family, and expatriates from Africa, Asia, Europe and America. As a member of an ethnic minority, the Bornu community from the Lake Chad region, I understand the need to engage diverse communities.

I strive to design experiences that prepare competent outdoor leaders

Aishah Ali Abdallah Aishah Ali Abdallah Photo: Reem Haddadin
whose care and compassion extend to all beings, who understand the processes that shape the places they visit and the diversity of life they harbor, and who practice and communicate the ethics of stewardship on Earth. What gives me the greatest pride is to see my students grow, when those who treat wildlands roughly and carelessly become careful stewards of the land, when those who fear and loathe snakes and spiders come to appreciate and care for these living beings. To see joy and love of wildlands and wildlife in my students’ faces gives me the greatest sense of achievement.

My newest initiative is, an ecological leadership program for schools and youth in the Riyadh region of Saudi Arabia. Striving always to make our activities more effective, enjoyable, and meaningful, I hope to engage more actively with the regional and global network of CEC experts to share experiences and learn new approaches.

The main point I would like to share with colleagues is the importance of personal immersion in the wild. We should make full use of the wonderful array of videos, books, poems, songs and other literature, arts, crafts, and games available for environmental education. But there is no substitute for deep immersion in wild nature, which differs from tourism and fun-based recreation. That is what made me love nature and fight for its conservation and I believe it should be available to everyone.

In West Asia we lack providers of such immersive experiences; developing the field of wilderness leadership in our region would help fill that gap. Travelling and living in wildlands requires special skills, and an organization that provides them is the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I would encourage CEC members to consider taking its accredited courses, which range from ten days to a full year of wilderness immersion. I would likewise encourage CEC members in West Asia to make use of the Leave No Trace program, which enables people to learn and communicate essential principles and skills of wildland ethics.

Read more stories about the CEC Excellence Award winners!