Alice Paghera ~ Safari Guide & Lodge Manager

“My time in the Congo have been mainly focused on the conservation of this wilderness area and all its fragile creatures (namely western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, pangolins…), but Congo Conservation Company also has a sister company (SPAC – Sabine Plattner African Charities) that combines education, biodiversity research, skills training, and job creation into a sustainable approach to conservation in the communities around Odzala-Kokoua National Park, so I have been working and joining some exciting projects with schools to make children aware of the importance of conservation and sustainability. I also have been in contact with another project in the southern part of the Congo whose primary goal is to empower the local population through educational opportunities, health care amenities, and employment. Unfortunately, due to this pandemic situation, I am still stuck in Italy. So that I won’t get bored, I am working on different projects from home. I have started writing my second book based on my adventures and experience as a guide in the Congo. I have been writing articles about African wildlife with a friend who worked a lot between Zimbabwe and Botswana. The situation also makes it complex and uncertain for me to have a precise timeline to when I will be allowed and able to travel back to Tanzania. My next adventure will hopefully see myself and my boyfriend manage a tented lodge in the Ruaha. I am always looking to find a working solution that combines two of my greatest passions: bush life and the commitment towards local communities. The camp that we are supposed to manage in the Ruaha is strongly linked to the philosophy of “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time”. The camp supports a local project (the Iringa Young Women’s Project) and the Kipera villagers’ economy buying fresh products and engaging with them regularly. I possibly won’t guide, but we will be teaching local guides our profession using South African knowledge.” ~ Alice Paghera

1. What is the best and worst decision you’ve ever made?

Best: I have no doubt about this answer. The best decision I have ever made so far has been to resign from my previous job to follow my dream to become a field guide in Africa! Before the African dream started, I have been a manager in a tobacco shop for 6 years. I had started this job because I wanted to pay the University fees without asking for any money from my parents. I have a degree in Foreign Literatures and Languages apart from being a qualified nature field guide. After finishing university, I found myself stuck in this job and within this comfort zone, that after a while, started to feel more like a prison than an actual comfort zone. As I received the email from the company’s CEO in Congo that I was in (it was the 8th December 2018), I immediately phoned my ex-boss, and I resigned on the spot! It was the best decision ever, and I still feel so happy and enriched every time I speak about this.

Worst: The worst thing I have ever made is probably linked to the best one I have just described. After my first trip to South Africa, I immediately understood that I did not want to keep living in Italy and I was really committed to finding a way to get back to Africa. Then, I was engaged, and for an extended period, I stupidly denied my desires and ideas for the future for my fiance, knowing that he was entirely at ease in Italy and did not want to leave his home country. After months of fighting and negative feelings, I eventually decided to break up with him, understanding that our lives were running on separate lines. I don’t know if this could be classified as “the worst decision”, but it definitely troubles me every time I think about approaching this situation. I am a very determined person, and if I have something in my mind, I usually do everything in my powers to get it done and dusted (the Italian expression is: Meglio avere rimorsi che rimpianti… Seize the day)

2. What was your dream job as a kid and why? 

When I was a kid (hence until I was 12-13), I had two big dream jobs: the first one was to become a vet somewhere in the world (not the “ordinary vet” that takes care of dogs, cats and puppies): I was dreaming of saving elephants, following tigers, and probably also hug polar bears because that’s what the baby-me classified as “possible-to-achieve”. The second biggest job dream was to get a qualification in Egyptology. I was so so into Egypt, and I was amazed (well, I actually still am) by pyramids, Pharaohs, and mummies that I was dreaming of getting some spectacular discoveries that would have made my name famous worldwide. I am (sometime in my daydreams) still thinking of getting back to uni and start all over again to get a PhD in Egyptology. Still, as soon as I realized that being a vet also means sometimes not saving animals, I stop believing in myself as a possible good vet. 

3. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Aldo Cazzullo, an Italian journalist, wrote a book about the possibility for this century to be the one where women overtake men. In the past and present, unfortunately, in some cultures and societies, the woman’s role has always been pushed on the sides, classified as a secondary presence, not so relevant and not necessary, if not for primary needs of procreation and family care. The most significant barrier that women have to overcome and defeat, once and for all, is this anachronistic and paradoxical idea of not being as worthy as men. It’s time to put our feet down and be strong together.

4. What woman inspires you and why?

Oriana Fallaci. She has nothing to do with my profession and career, but I think she has to be classified as a role model, regardless of who you are and what you are doing in your life. Oriana Fallaci was an Italian journalist, writer and political reporter. She always had the courage and ability to share her ideas, opinions and controversial impressions about the world most authentically and straightforwardly. Oriana wrote different books about politics, religions and clashes between cultures and societies, which contains information and point of views that are still up-to-date. She also strongly believed in women empowerment. In all Oriana’s articles and interviews with some greats such as Coco Chanel, Mary Quant, Indira Gandhi, she firmly focused on her idea about women and our position in the world. Women are majestic creatures that should always and necessarily be free and respected. 

” It’s an adventure that takes such courage, a challenge that’s never boring. You’ll have so many things to engage in if you’re born a woman. To begin with, you’ll have to struggle to maintain that if God exists, he might even be an old woman with white hair or a beautiful girl”.

5. What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

As I mentioned in the previous answer, I am currently reading about this fascinating and inspiring book, written by Aldo Cazzullo, an Italian journalist, called “The women will inherit the Earth. This will be the century of overtaking”. It is such an inspiring and detailed analysis of our times and the optimistic and hopefully not too idealistic idea that ours will be the century of overtaking women over men. Women will inherit the Earth (based on his thoughts and analysis) because we are more gifted to face the great and terrible age given to us in fate. Because we know how to sacrifice ourselves, to look far, to take care, to be devoted and mindful. I think the biggest challenge for my generation and probably also the next one that will come behind me – my nieces of 7 and 3 years old, for example – will be to face this battle, to push to the extremes our capabilities, our skills, our uniquenesses. To be able to show the world that we can do it, we can and have to be considered at the same level as men, we can overtake their positions, we can do even better than men; we have to keep on fighting for our rights, and we always have to believe in ourselves. 

“You women are better than us. Do not think that men do not know; we know this very well, and we have been organizing ourselves for millennia to submit to you, often with your help. But that time is running out. It’s over”.