FIVE WAYS TO EMPOWER LOCAL WOMEN WHILE YOU TRAVEL
Sunday, March 8, 2020 celebrated International Women's Day. In honour of that I would like to highlight the ways we can support local women while we are travelling abroad.
Travel and tourism help provide women with more opportunities than other sectors - workforce participation, leadership, entrepreneurship and empowerment - all which work towards reducing poverty.
Here are some ways in which I try to support local women when planning my trips, or trips for my clients. Small decisions that you make can have a big impact on other’s lives.
SEEK OUT A FEMALE GUIDE
Guiding, which has significant gratuity-based earning potential, is not only often dominated by men, but in many countries actually excludes women.
More travel companies, and particularly those hosting women-only trips, are using female guides both to empower them (and their families) in their destination while creating more meaningful experiences for their guests.
And if the demand for female tour guides is higher then countries and companies will choose to train more women for these lucrative positions.
Pictured woman entrepreneur in a local market, Peru, selling vegetables
FIND FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS
As a traveller you have the power to spend your hard earned cash in ways that reflect your values. When planning a trip, look for female-owned accommodations, businesses or restaurants. This is a simple way to direct your tourism dollars towards supporting local women.
Something as simple as purchasing street food from a female vendor can go a long way.
And as one of the biggest expenses while travelling is typically accommodation, an alternative is to skip the hotel and stay local – options are booking a homestay experience, renting a local’s room or apartment or (my favourite), staying at a family-run B&B.
Pictured Planterra sponsored women's collective, local women knitting alpaca wool, G Adventures tour
LOOK TO THE EXPERTS
I look for companies that are supporting local NGOs and other established social enterprises. I can be confident that they have spent time building authentic relationships with the women, and families, and trust that monies are going to go where I intend them to. I have travelled with larger companies like G Adventures and Intrepid and directly visited projects they support. I have also worked with local companies that have strong partnerships.
KEEP THINGS LOCAL
I know that I certainly have brought items like toiletries and school supplies in past trips myself. But in actuality, purchasing donation items after you arrived in a destination doubles the effectiveness by your efforts by supporting small businesses.
I learned when travelling with Alternative Peru tours, the importance of buying souvenirs from handicraft collectives that feature female artisans. Having the opportunity to meet with a woman that escaped the terrorist movement to relocate, learn to make handicrafts and is now training other women to do so, was a powerful lesson. You may pay more but you know you are getting an authentically made craft (not something made in China) with the benefit of supporting women and their families. So often they are the sole owners.
No matter our how awesome our intentions are, we do have to respect the culture of the place we are visiting. I am a die-hard feminist, at the same time I learn and watch the customs of the places I visit and navigate from there.
Change is a process and while our beliefs may not align we have to LISTEN and learn instead of imposing our judgement. That serves no one quite honestly. It’s a two way street and we have much to learn from each other.
Search for the truth underlying the many misconceptions that colour our world about women’s lives in other countries. Ask women about their lives, their values, and their thoughts and feelings. Use these to inform your worldview.
Responsible tourism is one of the pillars of my business. I hope these tips will enhance your experience while boosting the lives of women and their families in the places you visit.
Finding local business, and female guides and artisans to support while you travel doesn’t need to be difficult. You can put Google to work pre-trip or while you’re on the go to seek out these things. In destination, ask at your accommodations or on a tour for their recommendations. Artisan and farmers’ markets are always a great place to find local vendors as well!
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments on this topic, or of course if you’d like me to design an itinerary that incorporates components like this into your travels.
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