Guest blog by Roisin Kearney, RSPB NI Conservation Officer

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), which aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We feel this especially keenly within the RSPB, which was originally founded by inspirational women in the late 19th century.
These women fought bravely for what they believed in, namely the protection of our wonderful birds! The theme of this year’s IWD is “Choose to Challenge” and these women certainly challenged the status quo.
The RSPB has grown from strength to strength since its foundation and we continue to have inspired women working with us to save birds and wildlife - whether that be by speaking up for nature like Claire, helping to shape laws for nature like Jane or leading the charge for nature and RSPB NI like Joanne.

Joanne Sherwood – Director, RSPB NI (pictured, above, with son Finn)

"Everyone should be able to enjoy a thriving natural world, and it’s my privilege to lead RSPB NI’s talented workforce to deliver our work to save nature. 
While many jobs require wearing many different hats, RSPB NI requires that I wear many different types of shoes.
Slippers have been a staple over the past year, but multiple shoes help me to tackle the nature and climate emergency. 
"On just one day:

- Meeting Government ministers (and some internal meetings) saw me suited and booted to advocate for nature friendly policies and funding
- Wellies - essential to visit sites – were donned to visit Larne Lough Blue Circle Island, now repaired thanks to LIFE Roseate Tern funding
- High(ish) heels came out for the Sustainability Ireland awards ceremony.

"Whenever Covid-19 restrictions ease, I can’t wait to wear different shoes again."

Claire Barnett – Area Manager (East NI)

"I grew up within the farming community in the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone and found myself incredibly lucky to start working for RSPB NI in 2006. My role then was to give advice to farmers in County Down who wanted to manage their land for yellowhammers (known locally as ‘yellow yornies’).
"Now 15 years later as an Area Manager, I am fortunate enough to be able to lead a passionate and ambitious team of conservationists that strive every day to save nature.
"Alongside the teams that are working on and off reserves, I am constantly inspired by the interminable energy of our Education Team who work across the country to engage and connect young people with nature and wildlife."

Jane Clarke – Policy Officer (Nature Protection)

"I have been with RSPB NI for just over a year now. I have worked with some fantastic people and visited some beautiful locations across Northern Ireland; one real highlight for me was Rathlin Island (pictured). Before this job, I was carrying out PhD research in marine spatial planning and climate change at Queen’s University Belfast.
My role focuses on two key issues. The first is environmental governance, on which I work with colleagues across England, Scotland and Wales to secure stronger laws and oversight to protect nature.
"The second core component relates to securing the designation and management of protected sites across NI for our priority species, such as the curlew. No two days are the same for me, whether I’m in front of the screen or out on sites, and I wouldn’t change it. As someone who has always been passionate about nature, wildlife and the environment, it’s a privilege to be in a job that helps shapes laws to protect them."

There are many ways that women - and indeed anyone - can choose to challenge the status quo. If you are inspired by our team, there are many ways to get involved:

- Help campaign for nature, like our exceptional volunteer Dakota, another of our formidable women.

- Volunteer with us.

- Help us raise vital funds for nature.

- And don’t forget, helping wildlife starts at home.