From November 18 to 20, 2010, a three-day international women conference held at Le Printemps Hotel in Kiromironko brought together women of all calibers to address issues under the theme: ‘Women Empowerment through Community Based Tourism and Cultural Exchange: Chances and challenges of grassroots development projects.’
They brought to light issues surrounding the challenges of grassroot development projects, cultural identity and tourism, among several factors regarding women empowerment.
The conference which was organized by The Peace Institute Slovenia, Kigali Institute of Education-Center for Gender, Culture and Development Rwanda and New Dawn Associates Rwanda was attended by several international delegates such as Alenka Suhadolnik from the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Proffersor Irena Atelijevic, Professor Vlasta Jalusic PhD, Dorothy Forsac Tata from Cameroon, Dr. Shose Kessi, as well as women from the East African Community and Rwanda alike.
Dorothy Forsac Tata from Cameroon described the opportunities and challenges of women while carrying out research regarding Community Based Tourism (CBT) from her research work in Southwestern Cameroon.
She teaches in the department of Women and Gender Studies, University of Buea and holds a PhD in Gender and Development. Forsac‘s area of interest constitutes Gender analysis, mainstreaming and poverty reduction.
Despite the fact that the tourism sector enhances the development of local communities by creating jobs and encouraging income generating activities she noted that in Cameroon it was the men who benefited in the industry. She called for the integration of gender issues in the Tourism industry.
“There is need to build women capacity to operate in the tourism sector, through giving them access to resources, training and exposure so that they can add value to their already existing ventures and activities within the Tourism industry,” Forsac said.
Rica Rwigamba, Head of Tourism and Conservation in Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that Rwanda has a different story to tell. Communities have benefited directly from tourism and over 252,000 people are directly employed by the sector.
“Tourism has greatly contributed to poverty reduction since the sector has been the country’s leading foreign exchange earner for the past three years. We put a lot of emphasis in communities around the National Parks since they are the most affected,” she said.
For instance, the Sabyinyo Central Park Lodge in the Northern Province with single rooms worth USD1000 per night (the most expensive rooms in the country), is owned by the community and managed by the Private Sector.
“The revenue attained from this project goes back to the community, and 600 people were employed during the construction phase while 47 people from the community are permanently employed at the Lodge. Hospitality trainings are also carried out there,” Rwigamaba said.
As a result of the profits made, the people in the community have built over 22 houses for vulnerable families.
Women’s empowerment through community based tourism and cultural exchange in Rwanda will create a core activity of income generating activities given the availability of tourism trainings