Guest Post

Weaving a new Future: How Tourism has Empowered Indigenous Women in Peru

Written by Serena Hejazi
Deep in the Andes Mountains of Peru lies the village of Ccaccaccollo, home to a group of Indigenous women who have found empowerment through tourism.

The women of Ccaccaccollo belong to a Quechua community, which has lived in the Andes for thousands of years. They are skilled weavers, creating beautiful textiles using the traditional techniques passed down through generations. Despite their rich cultural heritage, many of these women have struggled with poverty, lack of education, and discrimination.

Until recently, the market for their products was limited, and they struggled to earn a decent living. In the early 2000s, a group of local women with the help of Planeterra formed the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op to promote their work and improve their economic prospects. 

The cooperative called “Awamaki” which means “handmade” in Quechua, also provides training and support for other indigenous women to develop their skills, market their products, and manage their finances: it’s all about women supporting other women! 

Tourism has been a game-changer for the women of Ccaccaccollo. The village has become a popular destination for tourists seeking an authentic Andean experience. Visitors can learn about the Quechua culture, watch the women weave their textiles, and even participate in traditional ceremonies and of course you can also purchase their products.

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It’s safe to say that the women of Ccaccaccollo have been able to improve their economic situation and they now have a stable source of income and can provide for their families thanks to tourism. 

They have also gained a sense of pride in their cultural heritage, which they are now able to share with visitors from around the world.

But tourism has not only helped the women of Ccaccaccollo economically, it has also helped to preserve their traditional way of life. The women have been able to continue weaving using the traditional techniques and materials, which have been passed down through generations. 

They have also been able to maintain their language and culture, passing it on to their children and grandchildren.

The success of the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Association is an inspiring example of how tourism can be a force for good in indigenous communities. By providing a market for traditional products and cultural experiences, tourism had a positive impact in the lives of dozens of people. 

If you are planning a trip to Peru, consider visiting Ccaccaccollo and supporting the women of Awamaki. You can purchase their beautiful textiles and learn about their rich cultural heritage. By doing so, you will not only have a unique travel experience but also make a positive impact on the lives of these remarkable women.

Serena Hejazi

About the author:

Serena Hejazi is a passionate traveler and the author of Sere Travels, a blog that focuses on sustainable tourism. Visit http://seretravels.com/ to learn more about Serena’s travels. 

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Unfolding Nepalese Women’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Written by Aayusha Prasain, CEO, of Community Homestay Network
Despite various challenges women in Nepal face, travel and tourism provide them with more opportunities for empowerment and entrepreneurship than any other industry, giving the sector increased responsibility for the advancement of women.

When we hear the word entrepreneurship attached to women in Nepal, the first thing that comes to mind is all the barriers they might have to overcome while pursuing, scaling and sustaining it. These are not just ideas that come to us subconsciously; access to resources and opportunities for women due to the patriarchal structure of society plays a vital role in shaping these thoughts. 

Although women make up 51.04% of the population in Nepal (Census Nepal, 2021), they are not considered equal workers in the economy. Sadly, women tend to be marginalized and discriminated against for access to education, employment opportunities, and property ownership. In addition, the legal framework and policies also affect the control of productive resources like land, forest, credit, and technology. 

According to Nepal’s 2011 census, only 19.71 % of women have asset ownership. Women in Nepal are often associated with subsistence agriculture or work with a huge pay gap. My experiences of working with the communities and the different studies have shown women facing difficulties rising above from the subsistence or lower-paying jobs to high-productivity sectors. 

Women are also disadvantaged because they tend to have inadequate time managing both the demands of their business with domestic tasks – and have lower literacy levels, particularly in developing countries like ours. Along with these challenges, the attitude towards working women creates more obstacles, and as a result, there are few successful women entrepreneurs in developing countries. 

The question is, how do we change that?

According to the UN Global Report on Women and Tourism 2010 by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and UN Women, tourism also promotes women’s leadership more than other sectors of the economy. 

Since its establishment, Community Homestay Network has been one of the social enterprises in Nepal that encourages local women to take the lead in managing their enterprises (community homestays) while offering authentic experiences to travellers. 

Testimonies from the women running community homestays have shared that one of the benefits of interacting with travellers has been learning about different cultures. While they also emphasize the importance of paid work and their contribution to their families well-being, many women entrepreneurs within our network often mention gaining confidence through interactions with travellers. 

Women hosting travellers Panauti Community Homestay, Nepal

They have stated that running homestays have made them more aware of the hygiene and cleanliness of their homes and the surroundings. The hosts of Panauti Community Homestay, the first women-run Community Homestay of Nepal and the flagship product of Community Homestay Network, often express that the economic gain has helped almost every women entrepreneur in their community to strengthen their social networking skills as well as amplified their voices towards community development as a whole. 

Networking plays a crucial role in entrepreneurship. Compared to men, women in traditional societies have less advantage in building networks resulting in limited information about markets and NGOs or government organizations’ support mechanisms. This is probably caused by restrictions on women’s freedom of movement in the public sphere. In such cases, women with strong family support participated actively in requesting additional assistance from the organization, as well as demonstrated leadership abilities.

Another challenge women in (the rural areas of) Nepal face is the lack of access to credit and financial services. This often limits them to start and expand their businesses and also, according to Bushell (2008), creates a dependency on their male counterparts. 

We have been working with hosts of community homestays (mostly women) within our network to have bank accounts in their name to overcome such challenges. Along with our impact partners like ICIMOD and Planeterra, we are actively trying to encourage women entrepreneurs to break the biases. 

In Barauli, we were proactively engaged to establish the bank accounts in women’s names, although this created friction at the beginning due to the conservative mindsets of a few locals. Proper communication and opportunities that could be created through financial independence paved the way for change. 

Walking through the villages in Barauli Barauli Community Homestay, Nepal

As empowerment means different to different women, we should not try to put women in the same basket while unfolding women’s entrepreneurship. 

For some, it might be interacting with the travellers, but for some having a separate bank account, though shy to interact with outsiders, might be the first step to building confidence. In this sense, tourism has also provided women in developing countries the chance to engage themselves where they would not be directly forced into moving out of their houses to start something new to prove the notion of empowerment and success. 

Running community homestays has also helped them use the skills and knowledge (household management) that they have been doing for years to manage the enterprise. This would build confidence in women and help them receive direct financial benefits. 

Despite advancements for women, the tourism industry cannot blindside the persisting inequality inside its sector. Women are paid less, engage in work that receives less money, and are underrepresented in certain tourism occupations and management levels. The issue of overtaking the enterprise once it is successful has also been one of the bottlenecks for women to foster in their entrepreneurial journeys. 

Although the legal registration of the enterprise is in the woman’s name, there is also a tendency to take over the enterprise when it starts to become more successful. Regarding this phenomenon, Brenda Bushell, in one of her studies, has cited women as surrogate entrepreneurs.  

For the economic development of any country, the government, private sector and other relevant stakeholders cannot just capitalize on half of its human potential. Various studies show that organizations that include women on their boards or as decision-makers have their staff performing better in terms of profitability, creativity, and sustainability. Hence, the prospect of a gender-equal society as a whole is promising. 

As a social enterprise, we are doing our bit to change the overall entrepreneurial environment for women. Still, meaningful partnerships among and between relevant stakeholders play a crucial role to develop and strengthen women’s entrepreneurship and leadership.

Aayusha Prasain, CEO- Community Homestay Network

About the author:

As the CEO of Community Homestay Network (CHN), Aayusha is working towards strengthening the organization while streamlining and scaling the impact of tourism across communities. Along with her team at CHN, she also works towards bringing local actors into the tourism value chain and promoting responsible and inclusive tourism. 

Visit www.communityhomestay.com to learn more about CHN’s work.

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REEF ECOLOGIC- AN EXPERIENTIAL GREAT BARRIER REEF ADVENTURE

WRITTEN BY NATHAN COOK, MARINE SCIENTIST, REEF ECOLOGIC

As a marine scientist specializing in active reef restoration techniques, the Whitsundays is an ideal location to try to implement my craft. In March 2017 ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie devastated a number of coral reefs in the Whitsundays region of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2019 Reef Ecologic partnered with Planeterra Foundation who provided critical funds to support the continuation of reef restoration activities in the region.

In December Reef Ecologic’s Nathan Cook and associate, Tracey Cook joined Explore Whitsundays in hosting 20 G Adventures travellers in the magnificent Whitsundays region of the reef. Nathan and Tracey went along to introduce travellers directly to the reef restoration project.

We departed Airlie Beach on a beautiful sunny morning heading for our first destination at Blue Pearl Bay on the shores of Hayman Island. The seas were calm and we were all keen to dive into those azure waters common in the Great Barrier Reef.

Some areas of the Great Barrier Reef have been heavily degraded by multiple impacts over the past few years. One of the reef restoration techniques we specialize in is called coral gardening. It’s nothing new; it’s been going on around the world for over 20 years. We take fragments from donor corals, or we might find them loose around the reef, and we transplant them to areas that have been degraded and attach them to the reef using cement. Once they’ve got that stable base, they can grow in that new location and help regenerate that degraded reef. The coral colonies we plant cover small areas in the overall Great Barrier Reef, but if we all contribute our little bit, it’s that whole economies of scale that’s going to make a difference to our global community and impact these ecosystems.

I gave a briefing to all travellers on the restoration project, how it works and what they would see once in the water. Showing the travellers the corals growing on the coral nursery was a real pleasure. It was fulfilling to close the loop and show them the corals growing on the reef that their travels had made possible. Many were amazed that you could actually grow coral this way.

We collected a few loose coral fragments and returned to the boat where we ‘planted’ them in new bases. In this way the corals could grow for 6-12 months before they would be planted out on the reef.

Involving people in the process is an important part of the restoration projects that Reef Ecologic are involved with. When we go out and do reef restoration projects and coral gardening activities—meaning we take corals from healthy reefs and use these to replenish or restore degraded reefs—we get travellers or people from the community who have an interest in the marine park or the marine environment. They want to be involved in the solutions, but they don’t necessarily have that knowledge, training or background. We facilitate their involvement and engagement in these activities. It really gives them a sense of achievement, accomplishment and feeling like they’ve been a part of that solution.

Before we departed Blue Pearl Bay I was accompanied by deckhand Thomas Stedman back to the coral nurseries where we placed the newly propagated corals back onto the frames, “it is super cool to be involved in such a positive project” Tom remarked upon surfacing.

We pulled up the anchor and sailed on to our next destination, leaving our little corals growing on the reef to continue to assist the recovery of these important locations.

“Thanks to the Planeterra Foundation, an important partner providing critical funds to support our work. Partnerships like these help assist the recovery of coral reefs supporting the socio-economic values of reef communities in the Great Barrier Reef and around the world. The reef restoration work in the Whitsundays has thus far been an amazing journey of discovery, learning and regeneration.”

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Visiting Solheimar Ecovillage in Iceland

By Amy Freyder- Epic Away Travel 

 

In November I braved the winter cold to spend a full week and then some in Iceland.  It was completely worth it.  One of the comforts of going with G Adventures is the warm and friendly people I met throughout my tour.  A highlight of my trip was going to Solheimar Ecovillage, a Planeterra Foundation partner project.  Talk about warming your heart.

When we arrived, we were asked to remove our shoes before stepping into the main hall. Personally, I really love that they had us do that.  We met two of the Solheimar staff who gave us an introduction to the ecovillage and then showed us a video about the history and mission of Solheimar.  This inspiring, self-sustaining community is a place for disabled and non-disabled people to support each other and live together in harmony and mutual benefit.  It sounds like a very simple concept, but in 1930 when a woman named Sesselja founded this village, people did not believe that the mentally disabled should live among the non-disabled. Society has come a long way from thinking that mental disorders are contagious. 

Some of the opportunities available to residents include candle making, forestry, ceramics, greenhouse gardening, running a guesthouse, bakery and a café.  Their original hilltop café was quickly becoming inaccessible to residents as they grew older, so they recently built a new café.  It was around this time that Planeterra reached out to inquire about a partnership with Solheimar.  The ecovillage’s beautiful new café is furnished with tables and chairs provided by Planeterra Foundation.  The people here are so grateful for the helping hand from Planeterra.  And they are so appreciative of the ongoing support from G Adventures, in the form of tourists who come to Solheimar to listen, to learn, to eat and to shop.

While we were at Solheimar, we got to eat a delicious homemade lunch while sitting in the beautiful new café furniture that brightens up the room.  They made us a delicious bowl of soup, two kinds of fresh baked bread, several yummy spreads for the bread.  The vegetables for the soup are organically grown by residents in their onsite greenhouses.  Every coffee drinker on our tour said that the coffee here was the best they’d had in Iceland.  They roast their own coffee on site.  No wonder it tastes so good.

The main impression I took away from here is that this is a simple place where needs are met. Happiness, comfort, feeling needed, having purpose and living off natural resources, are some of the benefits of being here.  It’s so nice to be reminded of the simple things in life.

Amy was selected as a 2019-2020 G Adventures Ambassador of Change and she says it’s been a privilege to spread the word about the amazing good they are doing in the world. Sharing that her family and tries to live a little more sustainably every day.  Small steps turn into big steps and collectively we can all make a huge difference!

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Guest Spotlight: Thirdeyemom- San Antonio Women’s Co-op

“The San Antonio Women’s Cooperative was founded in 2001 to help promote and conserve Maya heritage, culture and tradition within the community and provide women with an alternative, sustainable income outside of farming.” – Thirdeyemom

I woke up to the singsong sound of birds as the sun burst through the drapes, casting a zigzag of light across my room. After two carefree days at the Black Orchid Resort near the tiny village of Burrell Boom in Belize, I’d finally been brought back to life with a newfound energy that had long disappeared. I jumped out of bed, excited for the day ahead as we were heading to San Ignacio, the heart and soul of the Cayo District in Western Belize where we’d be swallowed into a world of thick, lush jungle, mysterious caves and extraordinary Maya ruins. But first, we were making a stop in the village of San Antonio, home of the largest Maya community in all of Belize.  In San Antonio, we would learn about an exciting initiative helping to empower local Maya women called the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative supported by our tour company G Adventures and their nonprofit partner Planeterra.

As our group gathered into the van, I sat up front next to the driver so I could learn more about the four different ethnic groups in Belize. Our driver Carlos was Mestizo(a mix of Spanish and Indigenous decent) which is the largest ethnic group in Belize making up approximately 34% of the population. After Mestizo, the next largest group is Creole followed by Maya and Garifuna. The Creole and Garifuna population both are descendants of African Slaves whereas the Maya population is centered within the tropical lowlands of Central America. Over time, the Maya spread out into parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. The Maya make up about 11% of the population in Belize and there are three different linguistic groups: The Yucatec Maya who came from Mexico and live in the north, the Mopan Maya who live in the Southern Toledo district, and the Kekchi Maya who live in Western Belize.

Nestled in a verdant valley, about a 20-minute drive from the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena in the heart of the Cayo District of Belize lies the village of San Antonio. Populated by primarily Yucatec Mayas, the village is known for its beauty and art, and has a strong farming and agricultural heritage. When we arrived at the co-op, the first thing I noticed was the beauty and lushness of San Antonio. We were surrounded by tropical trees and flowering shrubs. It was no surprise that the Yucatec Mayas chose to settle in San Antonio for its fertile land. Agriculture is king in San Antonio yet it has its downfalls especially for the women who have large families and don’t have the means to earn an income outside of farming.

The San Antonio Women’s Cooperative was founded in 2001 to help promote and conserve Maya heritage, culture and tradition within the community and provide women with an alternative, sustainable income outside of farming.  Since most Maya families have on average seven children and education is not free in Belize, girls are often the ones left behind and have few options besides raising a family. Poverty is a big issue and finding employment (especially without an education) in a small village is challenging. The San Antonio Women’s Co-op offers education in traditional pottery making, embroidery, cooking and serving guests through sustainable tourism as a means to preserve their culture and make a living. Today, there are 25 women in the co-op and they are working to encourage youth to participate as well.

One of the highlights of our visit was the hands-on demonstration of traditional corn tortilla making. Each one of us got to test out our skills at rolling and flattening the corn into our very own tortilla. Then it was cooked on a wood-burning stove inside a traditional open-air Maya kitchen. Afterwards, we got to enjoy our tortilla with a mug of sweet corn porridge.

 

We also got to experience a pottery demonstration by one of the local teachers at the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative. Classes are offered on a regular basis for the local women and girls within the community as a way for them to bring back their traditional art of pottery. The pottery is created by hand from locally sourced clay and mineral pigments. The polychrome painting on the pottery uses terra sigillata (a refined paint that produces a wax-like surface and sheen on the pottery) and is inspired by ancient Maya ceramics unearthed by archaeologists in the surrounding region.

 

After the pottery demonstration, we were served a home cooked meal of corn tamales with a locally grown green salad and chips and salsa, all prepared by the woman at the co-op. We also had time to stop inside the shop where you can buy pottery, embroidery and other handicrafts. All sales and tourism visits help support the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative and ensure that their ancient traditions and culture can be preserved for future generations to come.

As we boarded the van to head off to our next destination – the town of San Ignacio – I felt grateful that we got to witness the work being done on the ground to simultaneously promote sustainable, local tourism and women’s empowerment. In 2018, over 98,000 travellers visited one of Planeterra’s projects around the world and G Adventures has integrated the project visits into most of their tours. In my opinion, it is an excellent way to travel and do good.

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Thank you to Thirdeyemom for writing our first guest post! If you want to write a blog about your experience at one of our projects submit them here. 

All photos and content belongs to © thirdeyemom.

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