Gender and Sustainable Tourism Development

December 16, 2011 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

 

1.       Ms. Zainab Ansell, Founder and Director of Zara Tanzanian Adventures and Member of the Sustainable and Solidarity Tourism Network of the Spanish Banesto Foundation, related her experiences as a successful female entrepreneur. She explained how she managed to make her company one of the largest Kilimanjaro outfitters and one of the biggest tourism companies in Tanzania. She spoke of the bravery it took to “walk the path”. She explained that women face many challenges when becoming entrepreneurs in developing countries. “There is an entrenched social believe in Africa that women are supposed to stay at home. At times, society even does not expect you contribute to public life or to benefit the economy”, she observed.

2.       Ms. Ansell explained that a key challenge she faced was access to credit. As she did not have a credit record, and given her gender, it was difficult to convince the loan officer to grant her a loan to launch her business and even harder, she recalled, getting licenses from the government. However, “it was perseverance and resilience that kept me going when facing these barriers”, she recalled.

3.       Her determination grew in the early 1980s, Ms. Ansell said, while working for Tanzanian’s National Airline (ATC). “Working with ATC created a dream; I wanted to open my own Travel Agency”. She was especially keen to move up from a clerical position, which, she held, “is often the place where women stay, not advancing to professional or leadership positions.”

4.       Ms. Ansell recounted the story of how her company grew over time. In 1986, she used her savings and opened “Zara International Travel Agency” and began selling air tickets. However, when she applied for IATA Membership, it was not granted, and she had to work for over a year to prove herself. Thereafter, she was finally given the license which opened the doors and gave her the credibility to attract clients for Kilimanjaro and Safari excursions.

5.       By 1990, as her business was steadily profiting, a second office was opened to promote safaris. Since this was before the advent of the internet, Ms. Ansell had to go to bus stations to sell safari tours. “There was finally an advantage of being a woman” she joked. “Tourists felt they could trust me because of being a woman”. In her first trips to international tourism fairs she recalled that those in attendance were surprised and suspicious to see a woman selling trips to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. In the mid-nineties, she expanded into the hotel sector, opening a small hotel which attracted customers due to its good service and affordable prices, and which was later expanded to a hotel of 80 rooms.

6.       Ms. Ansell informed the gathering that her company employs many single women, training them especially in the areas of housekeeping, reception work, and as guides. “We are breaking stereotypes that women cannot do it”, she emphasized. “Clients were surprised women can drive the car and take the client on Safari”. She also felt that seeing her as a role model and being reassured by her example has helped other women start small businesses. She encourages them with her own personal slogan of “you can do it” and does her best to include their products in her hotels´ supply chain.

7.       Ms. Ansell also mentioned Zara Charity, a nonprofit foundation that finances its operations with 10% of her business revenue. Within its four areas of work, one is the Women´s Foundation where women acquire literacy skills and are able to make handicrafts that are later sold in the hotels. She also spoke of the company´s work with Maasai women, to whom they offer vocational training and whom they help market their handcrafts. They have constructed a waterhole in the village, saving the time and energy it previously took to get water in remote areas. “The Maasai women that work with us have been empowered and they are proudly helping their families”, she remarked.

8.       Acknowledging that women’s rights have greatly improved in Tanzania over the past three decades, Ms. Ansell said this makes it easier for women to come forward and try to achieve their own particular goals and ambitions. While recounting anecdotes, Ms. Ansell recalled that high ranking public figures she has met are more open to women having a place in society, and are encouraging women to occupy public positions. She too encouraged women in the audience with her determined “you can do it” approach. “To achieve something worthwhile requires hard work, endurance and determination,” she concluded, however “gender should no longer be a challenge.”

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Montreal show 2011 KILIMANJARO UHURU CLIMB

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