Greenpeace was an amazing experience – it helped me put my anger to good use, fighting for social justice and local livelihoods threatened by foreign fleets overfishing. I also realised we need to take responsibility ourselves, as Africans, rather than blaming others.
Building consensus and engagement
Appointed Secretary General of West Africa’s Marine Protected Areas Network (RAMPAO) in 2016, Marie Suzanna found the opportunity she was looking for, working directly with communities and conservationists to protect the region’s natural wealth.
Since its creation in 2007, RAMPAO had successfully increased MPA numbers and provided technical and financial support but true collaboration and partnership were lacking, making network engagement, participation and consensus-building a priority.
We wanted MPA managers, local people and governments across all seven countries to feel real ownership of the network and take responsibility. It’s taken a lot of talking, travel and diplomacy – very different to my time at Greenpeace – but it’s been worth it!
A force of nature
In just over two years, Marie Suzanna has transformed RAMPAO, overhauling its governance, building global partnerships, strengthening its financial autonomy, and making it truly member-led. She’s also successfully registered the network with Senegalese authorities as the first West African regional association of states, MPAs and communities supporting sustainable livelihoods and marine and coastal conservation.
As a powerful woman in conservation in West Africa, Marie Suzanna is still something of a rarity but her passion for its natural wonders, her faith in its people, and her vision for resilient ecosystems and thriving communities make her a true MAVA hero.
Leading an organisation as a woman in Africa can be difficult but what’s more important than my gender is my perseverance and my belief in my convictions. RAMPAO’s success depends on leadership from MPA managers, local communities and member states – together as equals we must deal with the challenges we face.