International Women’s Day - interview with Farina

For International Women’s Day, we spoke to Nurzhafarina Othman (Farina) who founded Seratu Aatai, an organisation that works closely with HUTAN, who we’ve supported for 14 years. Seratu Aatai means ‘Solidarity’ and Farina founded the organisation in 2018 with a vision for people and elephants to live in harmony. 

“Our main activities are trying to build the capacity of our society in Sabah to accept co-existence,” she says. The thing she enjoys most about her job is that there is “No routine! Every day is a new challenge!”

What is your main role?

My job is focusing on developing partnerships and collaboration with different stakeholders, raising funds, designing scientific research, writing reports and publications both for scientific and non-scientific bodies. I supervise and manage a team of 30 people in the field and in our main office in Kota Kinabalu. I am also a mom to two precious children, a 12-year-old girl, Aqeela, and a 7-year-old boy, Hamka. 

What are some of the main challenges?

Time management and juggling different roles can be very challenging. The prolonged pandemic situation is becoming more worrying. 

What training and learning helps you in your role?

Formally, I did Conservation Biology for my undergraduate degree, Conservation Genetics for my Masters, and Bioscience for my Ph.D. However, most of the useful training came from making mistakes and learning from other people's mistakes. This is what keeps me in this job.

What challenges do you face being a woman working in conservation?

As a woman, I think networking and the imposter syndrome. As a younger conservationist, sometimes I had to work triple hard to get my ideas heard and get buy-in from other stakeholders.

What are the main changes you'd like to see in conservation in the future?

1) Less talking, more actions.

2) Decisions made from the bottom to top. 

3) That people accept that conservation is for everyone.

These are our hopes too, Farina! And we know that with women like you leading the way, we’ll get there. 

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