Sisterhood of Survivors Launches New Travel Business

The Sisterhood of Survivor program in Nepal has come a long way. Initially just a dream to bring survivors of human trafficking into the tourism industry, providing sustainable funding for SASANE’s nonprofit programs. SASANE’s program has trained 10 survivors as paralegals, making them the first point of contact for other survivors. In order to better support this program, SASANE went on to develop a successful mo:mo demonstration and lunch for G Adventures’ travellers through a $25,000 USD catalyst grant from G Adventures and Planeterra, and even won the 12th United Nations World Tourism Award for Excellence and Innovation in Non-Governmental Organizations in 2016. Today, they are dreaming even bigger with the launching of their own trekking business to support northern communities and provide alternative income opportunities, decrease poverty, and combat human trafficking which is prevalent in the area.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Laxmi, a founding member of SASANE and now the lead of the trekking business, to learn more about their progress in starting this new business.

What is the purpose of this new trekking business?

“Our trekking program is targeting the mountain village [Ghyangphedi]. Our goal is to develop the poor communities. They need education and opportunities. Someday, we can work with other villages too.” Ghyangphedi is a vulnerable village, as “there are no job opportunities”, this remote village relies on older agricultural practices, leaving children at risk of being trafficked if an influx of cash is needed. “We did an education program, but now they need an alternative income source.” SASANE has been working with this village for years in order to educate children about human trafficking and their rights. They hope to bring travellers to this villages led by their own guides.

How are you making this happen

“Since 2015 we are sending our girls for guiding license.” SASANE has already sent 10 girls for their guiding license. Right now these guides are building their skills while working with Planeterra and G Adventures in the Sisterhood of Survivors mo:mo demonstration. They have also just launched a new website, are are beginning to create partnerships in the industry to better promote their business.

“We still need experience to gain expertise [in guiding]. Now we are taking our volunteers for trekking. This is very new for us!” The sisters receive a 35-day guide training in theory and practice.

What is next for SASANE?

“Now we are bringing some of the girls from the Ghyangphedi here [Kathmandu] to learn hospitality skills so they can go back home and do hospitality properly. We still need help with the homestays in the village.” There are only 4 homestays now, but before the earthquake there were 10. SASANE had invested in the bathrooms and toilets to improve the quality of these homestays. “We want to help them, but we need to fundraise first.”

Over the coming months SASANE will continue to seek out training for their guides and work on improving the homestays located in the northern villages they are working to support. SASANE has just begun their journey into their trekking business, and we’re very excited to see the impact of their dream in the future.

Follow along on their new website. Learn more about SASANE and support their incredible work to support survivors of human trafficking in Nepal.

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Celebrating Women’s Day in Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe experienced the world’s worst case of inflation in 2008, many of the country’s inhabitants struggled to meet the basic needs of their families. However, there is a growing movement to form cooperatives to create thriving businesses. Despite a traditional gender disparity, many Zimbabwean women are forming cooperative groups to provide services like tailoring, catering, and animal husbandry. These groups are taking matters into their own hands – creating income for their families and communities while empowering other women to build and launch their own businesses.

One such cooperative is the Lusumpuko Project (Lusumpuko means “progress” in Tonga), which was formed by 20 women from the Chinotimba township on the outskirts of Victoria Falls who found themselves without the means to support their families.

“If everyone had something to do or had an income at the end of the day, then people would be able to take their children to school, they’d be able to get healthcare, they would be able to get shelter over their heads,” explains Merlyn Mpofu, the Secretary of the group.

Taking a turn most cooperatives do not, Lusumpuko decided to partner with Planeterra, in order to harness the tourism industry and launch a catering business for visiting foreigners.

Planeterra has been working with this group since July 2017, with the help of Evie Ndhlovu, who has been assisting the ladies on behalf of Planeterra with training in hospitality, marketing, and more. Lusumpuko is one of 13 Planeterra partners who directly benefit women’s empowerment, and the newest project to launch in 2018. The Lusumpuko Project, originally a chicken-rearing endeavour, has expanded to a catering business – with G Adventures travellers to Victoria Falls as their main customer base and Planeterra providing a kick-starter grant to get their business off the ground.

“If tourism grows, the opportunity of employment will grow, too,” noticed Linda Makarutse, the President of Lusumpuko. “The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

Despite the gap in ability for many in Victoria Falls to benefit from the tourism industry, both Merlyn and Linda, along with the rest of the Lusumpuko members, believe they can have a hand in helping the next generation.

“We’re feeling very positive for the future,” says Merlyn. “Also, looking forward to, as we grow, maybe also changing the community, teaching others, helping others invest in their own thing and maybe our Lusumpuko company also having a sister company.” To this, Linda nodded her approval: “It’s our dream to help more women in our community,” she concluded.

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Empowering the Women of Moshi

The town of Moshi bustles with tourists who have just come off the mountain, but in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s a school that’s empowering women to harness the power of the tourism industry in the town, start their own businesses, and change their lives.

It’s graduation day for the Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) school, who became a Planeterra partner in March 2014. The school’s graduates have been providing travellers in Moshi with handicrafts from their cooperative, Moshi Mamas, and spa treatments from their day spa, Lala Salama, ever since.

A female-only school, founded by a Czech-Canadian in 2009, GHTA provides classes in business, entrepreneurship, English, and more. It is run solely on donations and the fees paid for by international volunteers. Graduates from the school have gone on to be successful entrepreneurs in Moshi and beyond – and three businesses related to tourism are thriving thanks to the free classes the school offers for successful applicants.

“It has helped us a lot,” says GHTA graduate Beatrice, who works at the Moshi Mamas Cooperative. “We didn’t know how to plan or design the things, and now we know. The school helped us to be independent, as well to feel how important we are in our family and how we can contribute, as women, to our families.”

On this rainy December day, 34 women are graduating from the GHTA school after a year in the program. One graduate happens to be the daughter of Beatrice, who is one of the handful of ladies running the Moshi Mamas Cooperative.

“I am glad. I feel very happy that my daughter has managed to graduate from this program,” says Beatrice. “I feel like it’s going to help her and improve her life. She passed the examination very well! She’s also doing the massage.”

Beatrice, however, will not be in the crowd at the graduation. The cooperative is hosting travellers for a bead-making tour, and the shop is open as it’s the weekend and travellers are milling about and looking for a reprieve from the weather.

“This kind of business that we’re doing… travellers are so interested and they support us,” Beatrice explains why she’s staying at the cooperative that day. “They create income for us, so we are very thankful.”

It’s not just a monumental day for the graduates, as GHTA manager Rhiannon Chainey announces a new graduate program that’s being launched, to cheers from the crowd. Rhiannon and the GHTA board have realized the need for a graduate program to support those who move on from the school as they start their own businesses. To ensure they are successful, sections of the week’s curriculum will be dedicated to helping GHTA graduates to continue using the skills they learned at the school, thus ensuring their success as small business entrepreneurs. 

It’s a monumental day for the women who are graduating, and the smiles on their faces never flicker – though they listen intently to Rhiannon as she closes off her speech on a profound note that resonates to all.

“Today we are celebrating the people you are. You are intelligent, kind, caring and capable women. You are beautiful, smart and hardworking. You are full of strength and power. You are role models to your children, your husbands, your friends and your communities. You are particularly impressive role models for our school and the women that will come after you at GHTA.  You are our inspiration,” she says.

The crowd erupts – laughter, clapping, whistling, and singing, into their new lives as empowered, emboldened female entrepreneurs in Moshi.


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The impact of tourism in Panauti, Nepal

Although it’s hard not to enjoy staying in a beautiful, luxurious hotel while travelling, the reality is that most budget hotels—and some mid-range ones, too—simply end up being a place to rest your head. For travellers who want much more from their accommodation, the Community Homestay project in Nepal offers just that. As well as providing guests an opportunity to experience authentic Nepali life, get to know small-town locals and participate in non-touristy activities, there is a serious social benefit to the host communities.

The Community Homestay project, run by Kathmandu-based Royal Mountain Travel, has been operating their flagship collection of homestays in Panauti since 2013. The Panauti Community Homestay project has recently partnered with Planeterra as one of the new projects for the 50 in 5 Campaign. Initially, 13 homes were involved. Now, 26 beds in 17 homes are open to visitors in Panauti.

The aim of the homestays from the beginning was to help empower the women of the community, in the understanding that by strengthening women, whole communities are strengthened. In traditional Nepali society—which still dominates everywhere but the most privileged enclaves of the major cities—women are typically dependent on men, first their fathers and then their husbands. They are usually under- or uneducated, too, so don’t get many opportunities to earn their own money or contribute to the household in any way other than with their household chores. The Community Homestays aimed to change all that in their communities.

The good news is, they’ve been really successful, especially in Panauti, where they began. Panauti is not completely rural but not urban, either. It’s a small town about forty kilometres from Kathmandu, traditionally inhabited by Newari people, an ethnic group largely found in and around the Kathmandu Valley. The town is surrounded by rice fields and hills, which are bright green just after the monsoon, and the architecture in the centre of the town is typically Newari, with ornately carved wooden doorways and windows. The main historical attraction of the town is the Indreshwar Temple, a tall pagoda structure beside the river that is the oldest temple in Nepal, dating from 1294. A sightseeing tour around Panauti with the host family is sure to interest travellers with various tastes.

The women of Panauti have been able to generate extra income for their households through hosting guests, and have some control over their own money. They have joined English classes so they can communicate better with their guests, which have given them greater confidence and social skills. They have worked together and made new friends and colleagues, and are no longer as house-bound as they once were. As one homestay host, Sabita KC, commented: “As I am, now, able to help with the household expenses, we can save money for the future of our children. I am glad that I am part of the homestay project.”

Operating the homestays has also had community-wide effects, beyond just the households directly involved. In order to be able to host guests, homes must meet a good standard of hygiene in all respects, including food preparation and waste disposal. As the hosting women became better educated about safe practices, the whole town caught on. As tourists to Nepal tend to enjoy clean, green natural environments free of garbage, the hosts became better aware of keeping their town in good shape. While Nepal isn’t short of stunning natural landscapes, unfortunately many settlements tend to be litter-strewn, with poor water quality in the rivers and ponds. But, as Panauti host Parvati Sainju commented: “We are more aware of sanitation and hygiene now. The entire community is more concerned about moving away from plastics and non-decaying products.”

The community has benefited in monetary ways, too. The thirty-four homestay women contribute 20% of their total income towards the development of community. So far, these funds have been put towards scholarships for underprivileged students. This sharing of some of the profits is a requirement of inclusion in the programme, and ensures that the ‘community’ aspect of Community Homestay stays strong.

These days, around 1800 guests stay at the Panauti Community Homestay annually. With such tangible achievements evident from just its first four years of operation, there are high hopes for what the project could continue to do for Panauti, as well as for other communities around Nepal.


Author: Elen Turner is a freelance travel writer and editor based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Find her at www.elenturner.com

Royal Mountain Travel is connecting a network of homestays in Nepal through CommunityHomestay.com. Be sure to check out some of the other amazing homestays they have supported, including Planeterra’s partners at Barauli Community Homestay.  G Adventures’ Local Living Nepal tour brings you to Panauti village to spend four nights with your community hosts!

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Khushi’s Journey

Would you ever dream to wake up at 5:00AM and clean your car? This is something Khushi likes to do every single day. Khushi works as a driver with Women on Wheels, a taxi service in Delhi that is run by women for women. She has been driving for the past 7 years and treats her car like an extension of her own body. “I wash myself every day – why should my car be any different?” she jokes.

If you have ever come across our Women on Wheels project, you’ll know that there is something special about it. Scratch the surface a little further, and you will uncover the years of training and social services that were provided to these women long before they could even consider becoming a taxi driver. Our partners, the Azad Foundation, are working with vulnerable women in city centres across India, and they start with the very basics. Income alone cannot change a woman’s life, but strong social connections, a better understanding of their rights and increased confidence through education – combined with economic opportunity – is a great place to start. When one of the lady drivers picks you up from the airport, you are not just helping her earn a livelihood – you are changing her life.

I had the honour of sitting in Khushi’s car this April in Delhi. She exudes confidence, and is keen to share her story with all that will listen. The Women on Wheels program helped bring her life from a place of crisis to one of opportunity.

There’s no better person to tell her story than Khushi herself:

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Sisterhood of Survivor’s momo recipe

The Sisterhood of Survivor’s program is empowering women survivors of trafficking to gain the skills they need to successfully reintegrate into society. How are they doing this? Through a simple momo making demonstration for G Adventures travellers! Not only are these little dumplings changing lives, they are also delicious!

Our partner’s at SASANE kindly shared their famous momo recipe with us so that you too can make this delicious snack from your home.


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Learning about the spirit of Ubuntu in Kenya

From the moment I stepped foot in Café Ubuntu, it was clear I was in a place filled with meaningful connections and change-makers, but nothing could prepare me for the magnitude of difference being made by the organization’s members.

Ubuntu is an African word used across the continent to describe a feeling of togetherness, and the widely accepted definition is simply: “I am because we are.” It is the word that celebrates human connectedness, and Ubuntu’s vision for the community espouses this ethos to perfection.

Café Ubuntu makes an immediate impression on its visitors. From the painted murals on the walls to the well-kept grounds located about an hour’s drive outside Nairobi, the entire visit is a feast for the senses. Smells from lunches being cooked in the open kitchen waft into the large room where handicrafts made on-site are laid out. Meat sizzles in pans, the pizza oven hums and the coffee machine steams as the entire café gives the impression of being a living, breathing entity.

Upon our arrival, Assistant Director Ruby Ruth gave us the grand tour of the kitchen and café itself, and let us taste our first course – a delicious zucchini soup. We followed in the footsteps of G Adventures’ travellers as we received a tour of the grounds and headed up towards the Ubuntu Made Workshop, where about 20 women, most with children with disabilities, hand-make crafts to be sold locally and around the world.

That’s the really special part about Ubuntu: the women who work there. Next on our itinerary was a discussion with three of them; Josephine, Beatrice, and Esther. All three have worked at Ubuntu for at least six years, and their families have benefitted from the school for children with disabilities that is funded by Ubuntu. A true social enterprise, the funds raised through the café and handicrafts go not only towards the women, but also towards a school in their community that employs a special needs teacher and an occupational therapist.

From our chat with the ladies, it was easy to see just how much of an impact both the school and their employment at Ubuntu have had on their lives.

“I have so many blessings through Ubuntu,” says Josephine to our group during the discussion. “After some time in the Ubuntu school they did an assessment on my daughter and found she could attend regular school. Thanks to Ubuntu, my job allows me to pay for school fees.”

Esther, who has also worked at the cooperative since 2008, chimed in to say that Ubuntu’s training helped her when she was displaced during election violence in Kenya. “I earn a living and I’m able to be with the family,” Esther explains. “I was able to buy a piece of land and I constructed my house there.”

It was an incredible hour chatting to the centre’s employees and receiving our tour, and as I sat down afterwards to enjoy a locally-made meal, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed to have had such a meaningful discussion with just some of the cooperative’s members. This visit to Ubuntu was my first field visit as a new member of the Planeterra team, having just started as a coordinator in January. Although I have spent many years living in Africa, the experience with these ladies, the café and workshop is one I won’t ever forget.

Alanna Wallace
Coordinator, Planeterra

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