Tourism: well positioned to foster women´s empowerment and gender equality
Ministers of tourism, entrepreneurs and representatives of non-governmental organizations shed light on the many opportunities and barriers facing women in the tourism sector at UNWTO’s event on Gender and Sustainable Tourism Development: Exploring the Links at the World Travel Market (London, UK,9 November 2011),
The event aimed to raise the profile of gender issues in tourism and featured a presentation of the Global Report on Women in Tourism 2010, a joint study by UNWTO and UN Women, followed by interventions from representatives of the public and private sectors, as well as civil society.
Panelists shared their views and experiences on the important role of tourism in promoting women´s empowerment and discussed this link in light of the main themes of the Global Report – Employment, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Education and Community.
The event was opened by UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, who stressed that while tourism is a strong vehicle for women’s economic empowerment, much remains to be done to achieve the third Millennium Development Goal - empowering women and achieving gender equality (MDG 3) - and to effectively ensure the respect of women´s rights.
The Minister of Tourism of Paraguay, Liz Cramer Campos, offered valuable insight into her personal experience as a female leader at the helm of her country’s tourism sector. Subsequently, Angela Handjipateras, Founder and Co-Director of a community-based lodge in Mozambique and member of the Central America Women´s Network (CAWN), related her experience of running a “gender sensitive” community lodge in Mozambique, and highlighted how patriarchal attitudes and male resistance at the community level can sometimes hinder attempts to realize gender equality.
Zainab Answell, Director of the tour operator Zara Tanzanian Adventures, recounted how she became one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in Tanzania, overcoming the “belief that women are supposed to stay at home and take care of children”, rather than to “contribute to public life or to benefit the economy” by moving up the corporate ladder.
Participants agreed on the need for well-strategized, persistent and concerted efforts and emphasized the importance of raising awareness on gender issues in the tourism sector. “We need to convince tour operators, hotel managers and the private sector that equality in their companies means good business,” stressed UNWTO Executive Director, Zoltan Somogyi. “We must persuade communities that supporting the economic empowerment of women will benefit their entire community and help lift them out of poverty. We should strive tirelessly to ensure proper regulations and incentives in the public sector to redress gender inequalities.”
The occasion closed with calls to build on the findings of the UNWTO/UN Women Global Report and to ensure that data on gender is regularly collected worldwide so as to track the real progress of women in the tourism sector.
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