The adventures of Jeff Bouton in Uganda

Our Sales & Marketing Manager for Kowa Optics in the US, Jeff Bouton, had the privilege of travelling to Uganda recently, going to the International Conference for Women Birders that happened in December under the theme "Empowering Women for an Equal Birding World." The conference emerged as a tremendous success, garnering international acclaim and local praise from the Minister of Tourism, who hailed it as the best conference during his time in office. The event, set to be held biennially, will venture to different countries, marking the beginning of a new era for women birders.

Jeff found himself personally invited to this extraordinary event, surrounded by over 350 attendees at any given time. The venue was nothing short of spectacular, with professional camera crews live streaming the proceedings on YouTube. Distinguished speakers included delegates from the EU, the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, leaders from the Ugandan Parks department, and representatives from various NGOs such as PSFU and the World Bank. Women birders from Africa, the US, Ecuador, China, and Australia were in attendance, adding a diverse and enriching dimension to the conference.

The driving force behind this initiative was the Ugandan Women Birders team. The program offers an intensive 6-month training course, complete with peer mentoring, equipping women with the skills needed to embark on a career as professional tour guides. With over 100 certified working graduates in the first decade, Uganda boasts possibly the largest contingent of female professional bird and nature guides globally.

At the heart of the conference, Kowa Optics played a pivotal role, as it was the only optics manufacturer represented at this event! Jeff presented a session on digiscoping on the first day, followed by an engaging hands-on field session on the final afternoon. He emphasized the crucial role that quality optics play in the birding experience, not only for novice guides but also in ensuring top-notch visitor experiences and highlighted the challenges faced by female birders in accessing quality gear.