Last updated on July 30th, 2022
Featured image: Sara Lamzouwaq, a Moroccan guide leading a group through a night of learning about traditional Moroccan dress and Chaabi music in Fez, Morocco/ Provided by Julie-Anne Davies
Women making travel better, behind the scenes
by Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman
Around the world, women’s tour operators have been focused on helping communities recover from the pandemic. Here we highlight five – out of many – that are working to make a difference in the world by supporting the most vulnerable, from wildlife to women to small communities around the world. If you’ve heard of other women we can profile, please let us know – we’d like to this be an ongoing series.
Carla Geyser runs all-female expeditions which connect adventure travel with fundraising for conservation and humanitarian projects. She started Blue Sky Society trust in 2012. She believes that unless we uplift humans from poverty, we will not be able to save our planet from a slow death.
“One problem with the world today is that people think that somebody else will take care of it, ” she says. “Somebody else will save our wildlife and help our children or our communities. But I have realized over the past few years that we cannot just rely on future generations to make a difference. It has to be us, and it has to be now. We simply don’t have the time. There is still SO much worth fighting for. And we have to keep trying.”
Since3 2015, Ble Sky has gifted children in poor rural communities with new and preloved shoes with Soul2Sole, a corporate-community outreach programme that has been delivering dignity and hope to children in poverty-stricken areas of KwaZulu-Natal since 2015/2016. During COVID, almost 400 pairs of new and previously worn shoes were distributed to little feet in the Transkei, Durban, Zululand and the Babanango Valley area in KZN during Soul2Sole2020.
In March 2020, Blue Sky took a small crew of passionate individuals to the Phalaborwa area (South Africa) to work alongside the phenomenal teams from Elephants Alive and Wildlife Vets to outfit two elephants with satellite collars, which guard against poaching. In August, Blue Sky conducted a world-first for conservation: a virtual elephant collaring in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Collaring elephants helps track elephants, while providing insight into the social bonds, breeding behavior and movements over time of these amazing animals.
“Having had an intense love for Africa and the bush from my very first trip to the Kruger National Park with my family at the age of 7, I have always been pulled towards the challenges that Africa’s wildlife face,” Geyser says. “If 2020 taught me courage and hope, 2021 has taught me that change is constant, life goes on and that we hold our happiness in our hands.”
In August 2018, photographer Amina Mohamed launched Cameras for Girls, a program designed to help female guides in Uganda develop photography skills that empower them to get full-time paid work in the male-dominated field of journalism and photojournalism. They can escape poverty and support themselves, their families, and their communities.
“Cameras For Girls is not just about photography – it’s about empowering women through their passion for storytelling and allowing them to share their stories with the world,” Mohamed says. “All around the world, girls and women face challenges that can leave them feeling powerless. As an educator, it’s my job to empower girls through photography by helping them realize the power they have within themselves to make their own stories come to life with photography, in whatever way that may be for them.”
When the pandemic began, CEO Linda Higdon moved into action to support local communities in Kenya, mobilizing donors across North America to feed an entire Kenyan village from the comfort of their homes. It is one of the only food relief efforts in a rural region of 1.5 million, a testimony to the power of women’s global friendships. Linda was able to raise over $33,000 for these villages.
Read more here: www.gofundme.com/feedjoy.
From September 2020 to May 2021, CEO Kathy Wood hosted webinars to keep women inspired about travel. Twenty-one of these “Virtual European Experiences” were presented with her partners in Europe.
“As a way to provide some income to them during the pandemic, we invited participants to make donations that we collected and forwarded,” she says. “The presenters received 100% of the donations, and we paid the banking fees to send the money internationally. We raised more than $17,000 which was directed to 15 different people… our co-leaders, guides, cooking school teachers, and people who host our groups for meals and other activities.”
You can watch these videos (and donate) here. Of special note is The Living Crafts – Discovering Unique Artisans and Ancient Traditions in Chianti, which was developed and hosted by European Experiences’ partner in Chianti, Arianna Cini, and features several women artisans in the Chianti area.
Beyond being female-founded and owned, Wild Women Expeditions has been employing women in every role from tour leaders to local, on-the-ground guides for years. With CEO Jennifer Haddow at the helm, Wild Women has been working to empower women in Morocco, including hiring all-female guides and supporting women-owned businesses there. One of their guides, Hafida Hdoubane, is Morocco’s first female mountain guide, one of only 10 women guides in the country. She takes women-only groups to visit nomadic Moroccan women in the High Atlas mountains.
In Peru, the company supports Indigenous women artisans on the Inca Trail who made handcrafted masks for guests during the pandemic and also partners with a local organization to train women as porters. In an interview in Lonely Planet Haddow says: “We’ve been working the (Inca) Trail for the last seven years. There’s an organization (Awamaki Tourism Academy) we’re partnering with on the ground in Peru which aims to equip porters with the necessary skills, training and financial means to advance their careers, with a particular focus on empowering women. They’ve committed to working to support local porters with opportunities to progress their careers in the tourism industry.”
JourneyWoman is not a non-profit, but we saw the need to support the vulnerable during the pandemic. Over the past two years, we donated proceeds from our events and book clubs to non-profit organizations in support of causes like education, women’s shelters, medical research, and food. If you need some ideas visit our page or suggest some. We also accept donations to help us keep producing relevant editorial for you.
We know there are many other travel businesses supporting each other throughout the pandemic. If you have a story to share, please reach out.
More About Empowering Women
For our annual International Women’s Day photography exhibition, we feature women-owned businesses that are leading by example.
In our 2022 International Women’s Day photo exhibition, we recognize the women who have made our travel experiences meaningful.
From hiring women to donating menstrual supplies, here are 12 things we can do to support and empower women through travel.