Seven women forest guides were hired in an unprecedented move, at the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve in the central-eastern state of Chhattisgarh, last year.Coming from a village which falls in the tiger reserve’s territory, the women have grown up in the region that they share with wild animals and have taken to the job organically.Over the past year and a half, the women have gained self confidence and are empowered to contribute financially to their households. “We know this jungle like the back of our hands. We have grown up with wild animals around us and already know the basic behavioural limitations,” said 19-year-old Parmeshwari, appointed as one of the first women forest guides at a tiger reserve in the central-eastern state of Chhattisgarh. Parmeshwari helps amateur birders spot birds like the red vented bulbul, turtle dove, hornbills and other raptors. In a move towards encouraging women employment in the region, the government of Chhattisgarh and the state forest department has inducted seven female forest guides at the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. The women, who started their duties as forest guides in January 2017, are from the village of Bindawal which falls under the territory of the tiger reserve where employment opportunities for women are restricted. Durga (L) and Parmeshwari (R), two of the seven women from Bindawal village, Chhattisgarh, have been performing the duties of forest guides since January 2017 in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, situated 190 kms away from Raipur, the state capital of Chhattisgarh, is spread over 914 sq kms. The region, mainly on the eastern highlands of the Maikal range blends with Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh through the Achanakmar-Kanha corridor completing the Greater Maikal landscape. According to the last census in 2014-2015, 26 tigers were found to inhabit the Reserve. Leopards, wild dogs, hyena and sambar deer also call Achanakamar Tiger Reserve their home. The reserve also has the presence of six hundred documented medicinal plants due to which a large number of researchers flock there. The idea of hiring female forest guides was pitched by the forest rangers during a village meeting. Though the initiative was initially received with some apprehension, the women of the village were soon on board for the new employment opportunity. Predominantly farmers, the women were keen on new employment avenues as their agricultural fields were under constant threat from wild animals cohabiting the region.