By Byron Mutingwende
Women in tourism are calling for a major stake since they have for a long time been occupying a back seat in driving and developing the sector.
This emerged at the Women in Tourism all Stakeholders’ Workshop held on 22 June 2018 at Zimbali Gardens, Harare. The workshop was attended by officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Ministry of Health, Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, UNWomen, the academia and various Women Tourism Players.
“Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in the Tourism sector remains at the centre of the Ministry mandate. The concept of gender was amplified by UNWTO when the theme “Tourism Opens Doors for Women” was adopted for the World Tourism Day 2007 commemorations. After the 2007 Women in Tourism round table discussions on the theme, a further UNWTO Forum in Berlin in March 2008 explored further the theme of Women in Tourism.
“The UNWTO influenced development of Women in Tourism platform in various countries including Zimbabwe. Attempts to establish the local Women in Tourism chapter collapsed amid concerns of poor consultations, unclear leadership and too high expectations among members. Zimbabwe is lagging behind since we are not well structured. This manifests itself, especially when we go to regional conferences. Women in tourism are facing challenges of networking, limited opportunities in accessing resources, and challenges in forming profitable and sustainable cooperatives,” said Dr. Thokozile Chitepo, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry in her keynote address during the workshop.
There has been a lack of organisation and networking between women and existing business associations and support institutions. This has resulted in information gap that requires a tourism business information network for purposes of sharing experience.
An interim National Structure for Women in Tourism Network was established on 17 May 2018 by the Ministry and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), working together with business women who are into Tourism. Two Provincial Women in Tourism Structures have so far been established in Harare and Bulawayo, with the remaining seven Provinces targeted for completion before the end of 2018. These Provincial Structures will feed into the National Structure.
The workshop spearheaded interventions for technical and financial support to women’s SMEs and cooperatives in the tourism value chain and established a focal point for information on funding activities and facilitates the dissemination of these opportunities among women and young people.
It also mapped the way forward for the creation of a women in tourism association for networking, advocacy and capacity building in order to share best practices and expertise
It was evident that funding remains a critical challenge as evidenced by the number of women that highlighted funding challenges. The major hindrance highlighted was the lack of collateral security, short gestation period of the loans and high interest rates.
The Ministry of Women Affairs encouraged women to form Savings and Credit Co-operatives (SACCOS) as a way of raising their own financing for their businesses. The UN-Women pointed out that they work with Ministry of Finance to ensure that National Budgeting is gender sensitive. The UN-Women also encouraged to access micro credits that is a tool for empowerment. They also encouraged the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry to develop a mechanism that will help women to graduate from the micro business. The Ministry was challenged to ensure that their budget is gender sensitive.
The UN-Women encouraged the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry to offer deliberate programmes for older women who are not certified in the tourism sector. In addition training in Science and technology on digital transformation to women in tourism is a requirement. This presents an opportunity to engage international partners for capacity building.
The Ministry was challenged to facilitate the formation of strong Women in tourism Association. An interim National committee for Women in Tourism was chosen which will be provided with Terms of Reference and mandate by the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry. the ministry will also craft a constitution for the association.
The interim committee comprises Margaret Makadzange, Rose Mukogo, Judith Kusta, Marybar Bvunzawabaya, Avril Dhlamini, Alice Mashongwa, Catherine Masunda, Victoria Mamvura, Pedia Matamisa, Elisa Ravengai and Tashlee Duwati.
Women can participate in the tourism sector as secondary actors as producers of agricultural products and as transport providers. Women can also be distributors, travel agents or tour operators. Marketing, Information programs for Tourists stand on our mission and policies. Women can also offer accommodation at the same time they should understand their customers’ needs and expectations.
“In the demand side, the world demands quality services and products. Accommodation should be done in an environmentally friendly. Value chains are important in Tourism as they recognize that the firms link suppliers to producers. They also link processors and intermediaries to the customer and they are critical determinants of trade. The value chain linkage helps link poor people with the rich people. Value chain linkages also help eliminate barriers to entry through working together,” said Chipo Chitagu from the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.