International Women’s Day: How can tourism break the bias?



This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow’ and the day commemorates the achievements of women globally and their existence in general.

It’s all about breaking the bias, and creating a gender-equal world free of stereotypes and discrimination.

Tourism industry aims to break the bias

Collectively, we can all break the bias and various industries are taking a stand, including the tourism industry.

The President of the Commission on Human Rights, Charles Malik once said: “The fastest way to change society is to mobilise women of the world”.

What better way to do that than through the tourism industry? Imagine a diverse, equitable, inclusive world…

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In tourism, women are often concentrated in the lowest paid and lowest status jobs, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Opting to support female-led tourism experiences when travelling, might just give women the opportunity to have genuine ownership, empowering communities to break the bias and have a lasting impact on societies, especially in developing countries.

Contiki’s MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences give travellers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the communities they visit.

According to the travel company’s sustainability officer, Tasha Hayes, “any opportunity to support or promote a female-led business or initiative is genuinely important alongside being an excellent learning opportunity” for their travellers.

Hayes said: “We seek to demonstrate the great community benefit from travel and tourism while in turn educating our travellers on pressing global issues like women’s rights.”

Contiki experiences

Some of the Contiki experiences that are great examples of how the tourism industry can break the bias, include:

The Dhonk Centre, India

Founder, Divya Khandal has created a beautiful opportunity for growth and change in her home of Ranthambhore, India.

Dhonk provides alternative job opportunities in Ranthambore and discourages participation in tiger poaching – a crisis in the region.

At the centre, women create handcrafted apparel and home products, while honouring Indian craftsmanship and design.

Real Country, New Zealand

Laura Douglas started Real Country in 2016 with the aim of sharing real New Zealand with visitors.

The initial focus was on taking women hunting, but it soon turned into a legitimate and thriving farm filled with animals and rugged experiences.

Real Country
Real Country. Image: Supplied

They now offer a workshop for young girls structured like a finishing school and Laura focuses on instilling confidence and independence in young girls, equipping them with practical life skills.

These include hunting, farming, basic construction, changing tires, jumpstarting vehicles and more.

Real Country now also offers interactive tours and Laura teaches some of these skills to the public, along with running workshops for young women.

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Ock Pop Tok, Laos

One of the best recipes for success and innovation is the combination of great minds and cultures like with the work done by the women of Ock Pop Tok, which means “East Meets West” in Lao.

Created by Joanna Smith (English) and Veomanee Douangdala (Laotian), this is now one of the top textile and artisanal organisations in Southeast Asia.

It was founded in 2000 when the two women bonded over a love of traditional and innovative textiles and weaving methods and today it is a successful business focused on providing sustainable livelihood for local weavers – a job traditionally reserved for women.

Ock Pop Tok
Ock Pop Tok. Image: Supplied

Amal Women’s Cooperative, Morocco

Founded by Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen in 2012, the Marrakech-based, non-profit Amal Women’s Cooperative initially started as a small haven for local women to master culinary arts.

Today, she has two training centres and accepts 60 women into the program per year.

The free-of-charge program is dedicated to the empowerment of Moroccan women through culinary training and job placement, and it even covers student living expenses.

The students are all young Moroccan women of low income, who are determined to better their situation.

Amal offers cooking classes to visitors and provides daily service at its restaurant as well.

Amal Women's Cooperative
Amal Women’s Cooperative. Image: Supplied

Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, Peru

Nilda Callanuapa founded CTTC – a traditional weaving centre – in 1996 and it has been pivotal in its preservation of Peruvian culture, offering employment to local men and women to maintain the importance of this 10,000-year-old practice.

Today, the CTTC is female-managed, operated and founded and its focus is on keeping indigenous traditions alive by teaching younger generations how to weave.

The centre also provides a place where local weavers can sell their crafts, creating revenue streams for the community.

CTTC. Image: Supplied

The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative, Jordan

Female unemployment in Jordan is exceptionally high and it is organisations like The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative that assist in providing opportunities to combat employment disparity.

Founded by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation (a non-profit founded by Queen Noor of Jordan) in 1993, the cooperative’s aim is to teach and equip Jordanian women with new sills, business opportunities and greater financial independence.

Although not managed by women only, it has provided handicraft training for more than 150 women from local villages and these handicrafts are sold in the gift shop and online to provide income and help preserve local heritage.

The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative
The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative. Image: Supplied

Like with these initiatives, the ripple effect of women helping women can change the lives of many families and single women worldwide.

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