Responsibletravel.com, one of the organizers, provided us with the contacts, and the editorial staff of GRT interviewed the protagonists.
We started with three winners from 2013 and we will soon include others to the list.
In this Dossier section dedicated to them, you can read the information that they sent in, about the protagonists and about their good practices, all worthy of being reproduced by those who run projects in tourism development.
In the Travel section, you can read the articles on travels to their destinations
Managing Director of Village Ways
What is your association/project/enterprise doing?
Village Ways works in partnership with rural communities to establish, develop and manage a very special kind of tourism. Sustainability is paramount, with ownership in the hands of local communities and where both the tourists and the villagers are the beneficiaries.
What is the Project you won the Award for?
The award was given to us for our support to the local economy of the participating communities. This was for our various projects running In India and Ethiopia.
In general, is gender an issue you consider in your projects?
We very much encourage the participation of women in our initiative, and for each of the village committee we ensure that minimum 2 members in each village committee are women. Apart from this, we have also encouraged training women guides and have successfully done so in many participating villages.
Why do you think that more women are interested in responsible tourism goals (in general and in your organization, if any)?
Women very much like to support the goals of responsible tourism, as this directly supports local economy, which is the key to improved lives of the rural communities. With economic betterment, many aspects of rural life are positively impacted, like better education, agriculture, health etc. Women do understand and are sensitive to the needs and requirements for women living in rural areas, and they are therefore very keen to support in improving their living conditions and well- being. This in turn makes a happy household and larger community.
In our organization, we have many women members in the team and the reasons specified above have been key for them to be involved.
Where are you located?
We started our first project in year 2006 and since then from 5 villages, we are now working in 22 villages in India and Nepal.
We are currently working in the following areas in India.
Binsar – Uttarakhand state
Saryu Valley – Uttarakhand state
Pindar Vallley – Uttarakhand state
Hacra Dhani – Rajasthan state
Hulgol – Karnataka State
Pavinakurva – Karnataka State
Mothakkara – Kerela
Vayalar – Kerela
Apart from the India Projects , we are also working in Nepal and Ethiopia
Women are especially involved in Nepal and in Kerala.
What is the case, according to your project's impact on gender empowerment, you want to talk about?
In Nepal we have many women participants in the committees who are working as guides, cooks, housekeepers.
We also have our first senior guide from Nepal. Her name is Sanu Tamanag.
At the age of ten, she lost her father leaving behind five members in the family. Her mother works in India and Sanu had to leave her school to return to her village to look after the farm and to support her family.
One of her ambitions in life was to learn English and she was very excited to know about Village Ways. Sanu then joined the first guide training held in their village and she now accompanies the guests on the walks with confidence. With her enthusiasm and skills, the guests have been very impressed with her capabilities. Sanu is now undergoing different trainings through Village Ways.
The other project we launched is in Kerala: a great example in terms of gender. It's an all women in finance, guiding, briefing the guests, pottery, coffe plantation, walks, sharing traditions with guests, and really everyone I astonished when they show them the village.
As a positive change: they used to be paid cash and now they are opening their account at the bank. The lady coordinator is sharing experience working with community.
Sensitive, understand impact of tourism to the area, she is participating, if she is approving the policies, her participation is stronger, and that is very useful for the community, the economic grow to lift the economy.
Economy appeal and positive policies go hand in hand.
Now there are more women guides, because it depends on what they know doing, we are leading and monitoring.
It is difficult to give one example, but we can probably write a bit more about the Mothakkara guides in Kerala
Radha is one of our most experienced guides, with a deep knowledge of everything and everyone in the Mothakkara area. She moved to Wayanad district from her family home in Kottyam, in south Kerala, on her marriage at the age of 20 years and has now lived in Mothakkara for 35 years. She is a proud grandmother, with a son who has a daughter, and a daughter with a girl and a boy.
Radha is secretary to a local women's NGO, the Wayanad Social Service Society, and gives talks on the benefits of watershed management, and on thrift for NABARD.of Kerala, Southern India. She is one of our most experienced guides.
Dilna, a 21year old, is a guide and one of the cooks in the village. She returned to the village after studying for a degree and told us how the opportunity to be a guide has changed things for her.
At first she was frightened about meeting guests but she recounts that, after escorting three groups, she gained confidence. "Now", she assures with a broad grin, "I enjoy being a guide, learning from guests. I am now more aware of wildlife, recognizing birds from their songs and I have even learnt to speak some French too!"
What does the Community do?
Village Ways build guesthouses (these can be new-builds in traditional style, or renovations of existing buildings), as well as a houseboat in south India, and help develop the necessary skills and infrastructure needed to provide inspiring travel experiences for guests. Guides, cooks and porters are trained; interesting itineraries and excursions planned, walking routes created. Importantly, we encourage communities as a whole to become involved, with the creation of village committees to oversee the management of the guesthouses at a local level, and to ensure income is distributed as broadly as possible, with an emphasis on need.
How many women are involved?
In all the village committees, at least 2 members are women, but all the women are involved in our projects.
What did they do, and what do they do, or are going to do (related to tourism)?
They work in the committee as Treasurers, house - keepers, cooks, guides, porters.
They work in the committee as Treasurers, house - keepers, cooks, guides, porters.
When we started, we only had one, that took care of the treasure, and we didn't have any guides. Than after two years we had six, who still work after marriage and it really works well in terms of training to other girls.
Women want to participate, but they wouldn't do on the cost of the house work. If we try, they will participate, the priority is house managing, but equally they want their own independence.
Can you make an example of how a tourist will meet women?
In all the Village Tourism Enterprises, there is involvement of women members and therefore visitors will meet them in the guest houses. They may also be accompanied by women guide/guides. Visitors also go to the village houses and meet the people and women are very happy to welcome guests for a cup of tea and share their thoughts and experiences.
Did they partake in the project making?
Communities worked hand in hand in setting up the guest-houses, monitoring the construction, budgets. They also identified suitable members who could be trained to run the guest-houses. Communities also help identify interesting sights in their areas, which could be of interest for the vistors.
For each of our committee, we have coded the participating households, based on gender, ages, castes etc. This helps us to know the percentage of women participation. Each year we review this data for any updates/ changes. From this basic coding we also record all payments made to the committees by Village Ways and the distribution of income from the village committee bank accounts to the individuals, This helps us to monitor the economic improvement. For assessing other improvements, we have regular meetings with the village committees and these help us to understand their views and thoughts and the general impacts of the project in the villages. A very good way of assessment is also monitoring the number of households in the villages. An improvement in number of households directly reflects on the positive impact on the area for example.
We developed a Business Model as a Tour Operator, to respect some level of standard for the guests, to sensitive managers, to understand the community side.
It is a business model that supports very well women, we discuss with the community the dangers of tourism, we explained what is responsible tourism, the policies, what kind of guests we wanted, we explaned to womend how was impact and effects to kids, homes.
Where could a tourist wishing to go there find information?
or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call us: From UK or other countries: +44 (0)1223 750049 From France: +33 (0)5335 20774 From India: +91 (0)8108 014999