Akashinga is not only a symbol of strength, speed, discipline, but also of support and reconstruction, and it's hard to imagine a team of military-like explosiveness and action that is made up of once-broken lives - victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, single mothers and AIDS patients.

"I'll teach you how to fight back, "
"I'll teach you how to hide, "
"I'll also teach you how to use power." 」

The pace of the advance was neat and powerful, a team in dark green uniforms, armed with long guns, fearlessly stepping into the grasslands with the same body. When they turn and look straight into the camera, you can't help but be shocked by their sharp eyes: they are a group of women.

Photo: Kim Butts on national geographic channel's website

Akashinga, the word for the brave in Zimbabwe's Suna language, is also their name. They are not government-trained soldiers, but wildlife rangers trained under the International Anti-Poaching Foundation to rescue ferocious wildlife from poachers: elephants, leopards, lions, rhinos, and mediate conflicts between humans and animals. Akashinga, which protects six protected areas in Zimbabwe and covers a total of 463,000 acres, has reduced elephant hunting rates by 80 percent in the lower Chambisi River region of Zimbabwe since its inception in 2017.

Akashinga is not only a symbol of strength, speed, discipline, but also of support and reconstruction, and it's hard to imagine a team of military-like explosiveness and action that is made up of once-broken lives - victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, single mothers and AIDS patients. (Extended Reading: Gender Newsletter: Sexual Violence in Taiwan Business Africa Factory: They Are Forced to Use "Sex" for a Pair of Our Jeans)

Why are you looking for these women?

What is the reason for finding this group of women, or can you ask why this group of women, who are considered victims by society, want to be Akashinga?

Damien Mander, founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and a special forces-born ranger in Zimbabwe, realized that community recognition was key to protecting wildlife and creating harmonious survival between humans and animals, so he recruited them in the local villages of Zimbabwe and trained them in an army-like manner, but Damien found that these trained rangers began to accept bribes and even collude with poachers. The plan failed, but Damien was accidentally inspired by a New York Times story about female soldiers and decided to transfer the training to women, sending messages to 29 local villages: recruiting women aged 18-35 who had experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, etc., that is, they wanted to find women who could create new and gain through the Akashinga program. (Extended reading: Malawi report: Why educating a girl is equivalent to saving a country)

"They are not victims under the environment, but victims under men. Damien said.

Akashinga plans to restart, with about 90 women selected and 37 women entering a three-day training period. Over the three days, they had to go through four major pains: hunger, tiredness, cold, wetness, a series of trainings designed in special forces specifications, and a variety of endurance and team spirit challenges. By the end of the training, only three women had quit.

The National Geographic Channel released "The Conservation Warrior" in August, which documented Akashinga's recruitment process, when a group of excellent Akashinga had to select 80 of the 500 women. They shaved their hair, wrestled in the mud, ran on the hot grasslands, simulated situations in which they might fight poachers, and the trainer said, "You have to be confident, you have to say "no" to them with a lot of energy." We want to know, can you fight? How strong are you? 」

Photo: Kim Butts on national geographic channel's website

Because of weakness and fear, let them become fearless.

"It's a very difficult job, the most dangerous job in the world. You may lose your life in this job, you will need to stand up to armed men who do nothing to kill elephants, or even kill those who stand in their way, and you will be the ones who stand in their way. - Damien Mander.

Future Sibanda said: "The selection process is not easy, but I never thought about giving up. 」

Perhaps reluctant to give up, because before doing the most difficult work, they have been living the most difficult life in the first place. In "The Conservation Warrior," there's a scene in which Akashinga's team gets up and tells their stories to the girls who come to the draft, saying, "Tell me what challenges you face in your life."

One girl said, "My husband was shot, and I'm here to protect my children." 」
One girl said, "My husband abused me, and my feet were covered with scars." After these experiences, I don't want to let the opportunity slip away, which is why I used my life, wholeheartedly want to pass the election. 」

Those who became part of Akashinga came here with their own broken life experiences, and their eyes were unquessingly firm, and because there was no way out, they chose to let go of their determination.

Damien Mander said: "We thought the training was hellish for these women, but it turned out that they had been through it for a long time. 」

Photo: Kim Butts on national geographic channel's website

When you can stand up and tell your story, you have more power.

Women who have been sexually assaulted or domestic violence are used to seeing them as victims, but the victim's perspective makes it difficult for women to grow their own strength. In Akashinga's identity, however, there is a deeper implication: wounded people can actually fight for themselves, and when you can interpret your story, you have the ability to be born again.

One of the team members, Nyaradzo Auxillia Hoto, a 28-year-old single mother, had to interrupt her studies because of her poor family and married at the age of 20 to make ends meet. However, her husband continued to abuse her after marriage, forcing her to pay for her family without asking for anything in return, and she decided to apply for divorce and return to her mother's house with her children. However, after the divorce life is not good, she in order to support the family of eight family plan, desperately growing fields, selling potatoes to make a living. Until joining the Akashinga program in 2017 to become a ranger, she began saving her salary, bought a field, a driver's license a year later, let her children and two younger brothers finish school, and returned to college, half-time, dreaming of becoming a leader in wildlife sanctuaries.

"Because you're weak, you can be strong, you can be fearless because you've been afraid," she said. (I am strong today because I have been good weak; i am fearless today because i haddd afraid.)

At first they fought to survive, and in order to escape the violence, they fought. Now they can tell stories, they can dream, they can live the life they want.

"I'm ready to give my life, "

"It's my duty, "

"I'm Akashinga."

"I am the bravest man. 」

- The Braves of Conservation

Photo: Kim Butts on national geographic channel's website