Human Rights, Gender and Tourism

We are also aligned with the UN Women 8th of March theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, whose Generation Equality campaign calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, the end of all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.

Human Rights and Women in Tourism
Tourism affects many aspects of human rights from food, water, housing to health and education.
The human rights mostly related to women and tourism are labor rights, education and decision making processes, protection from descrimination, and safety.
Now with the crisis they are magnified.
Women are mostly at the forefront for labour rights, they need protection from discrimination, inclusion in decision-making processes and the right to safety; these rights are even more crucial with the pandemic (United Nations Human Rights Council).

Data about women and the crisis

  • Globally, women make up more than 54% of workers in tourism, nearly 70% within the hospitality industry, less than 40% in managerial positions, less than 20% of general management roles, 8% of board positions.
  • For women and girls the crisis is increasing the risks of unemployment, school dropout, domestic violence. Women were already occupied in precarious employment, but they are also the first to lose their jobs . Unemplyment rate is at + 5 in general and at +20 in tourism. 
  • The impact of the crisis is unprecedented: the unemployment rate of worldwide tourism increased by 20% in a month, from november 2020 to december 2020 (ILO, 2021).
  • The pandemic crisis affected informal workers, women in the first place, and even in the formal sector, they held more likely jobs at risk during the emergency, like face-to-face interaction, and all these issues contributed to extend gender inequality.

Experiences and Experts
And now I will go deeper in specific points or examples, from experts that I interviewed.
For example Stroma Cole, of Equality in Tourism, in her exhaustive conference about Tourism Business Human Rights and Gender Equality in Indonesia, also explains that “workers rights in tourism are more unsteady for women. She notes that human rights are interlinked and it is very interesting her exam about the right of water that affecs on a line education, health, violence, work. All human rights are interlinked e.g. Water rights affect children and girls’ right to education. Water rights affect ability to grow and cook healthy food. Increased water insecurity increases rates of Gender Based Violence. Fear of sexual violence prevents women and girls empowerment and advancement in the workplace. Human rights are also linked to living wages” (Stroma Cole, Equality in Tourism, University of the West of England).

I asked the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism, a multistakeholders initiative promoting human rights in tourism that many of you know, to dissect gender rights. And Jara Shreiber noted that: "The current pandemic offers a window of opportunity for tourism companies to assess gender-specific human rights risks in their supply chains. There are a variety of interventions that tour operators can take to continuously improve their business operations, while contributing to gender equality along supply chain. We identified a list of frequent human rights gender related risks and measures to be taken by tourism operators, for example, organising in-house, and business partner training on how to apply a gender lens in company processes, such as procurement, sales and marketing, and human resources” (Jara Shreiber, Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism).

it is also interesting the project made by IECD Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement, with Assett and Plan in the Mekong region, Association of Southeast Asian Social Enterprises for Training in Hospitality and Catering (ASSET-H&C),
As Sophie Hartman of IECD told me, about a study on some girls attending the H&T school in Mekong region, in short: “What emerged is that inclusive and accessible vocational and life skill training is a fundamental first step to future empowerment of young women entering the H&T industry. Before the training, there is a knowledge gap, after the training, where they discussed about management, financial, equal pay, women voice representation, harassment, they are much more confident. But they have to defend themselves from the rural communities stereotypes. After our project, it seems that they were more able to defend themselves and their rights against rural communities gender roles and stereotypes, that are still strong. And moreover now, with the crises, the companies are looking for multitasking staff , who knows how to set a table but not about finance and women continue to be employed for soft skills. Women tend to be engaged in ʻfeminizedʼ rolesʼ that extend their prescribed household duties, such as cleaning and serving guests. These stereotypes are particularly detrimental because the call for women to be confined in such roles without any evolution perspective.” (Sophie Hartman, Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement).

And finally, Ben Sherman, chairman of World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) also explained us that: “Indigenous women lack the access to opportunities in tourism. I would say the main right denied is self-determination, but women are more susceptible to being denied or marginalized because of their traditional roles in families, communities and the larger society” (Ben Sherman, World Indigenous Tourism Alliance).

Best Practices
What are the good practices that I have witnessed in my inquiries?
Some award winners cases are famous: Las Kellys, the spanish hotels chambermaids defending hospitality workers rights; the Three Sisters Trekking and leading empowering projects in Nepal; the several cases of women in India against stereotypes such as the great initiatives of Saka Association in Delhi, where I met Moida whose life changed as a taxi driver. 
In Cusco, vulnerable women rights are protected by the NGOs Caith, that offers young workers not recognised and victims of violence, job opportunities in a chain of guesthouses to empower female employment.
But all women, during the lock down, have been noteworthy for their resilience; many of them dozens of women entrepreneurs and their tourism projects are on my Guide Book, because they made up new ways of life, with so many beautiful stories to discover. 
The girls of ASPEM are a fantastic example of how in tourism you can make plans bottom up, to save women from the abuse of their rights and make them work equitably in tourism. Here we are in Molise, southern Italy, some abused girls have studied with olive growers and now have produced the first bottle and also are preparing routes and hospitality for the next travellers.

Call to Action
Finally, Women in tourism must push tourism industry and policy makers to put a gender lens in any decision.
With the associations I am related to, such as ISTO International Social Tourism Organisation and Equality, are launching a Call to Action, to all associations and organisations of women in tourism, to apply to these proposals and spread them in their Countries.
My idea is that we need a cultural change and we will have to introduce in any policy a Gender Impact Assessment, sex disaggregated data research, Gender-specific CSRs. I am not listing them all, this could be the subject for a next conference! But I say to all women in tourism to join and we will start acting together.

Time to reset tourism, the future of tourism must be gender equal!
Together, Equality in Tourism, Gender Responsible Tourism and ISTO, call on every member of the tourism industry to:
• Include Gender Impact Assessments and Budgeting in projects and policies
• Collect disaggregated data
• Work with Women’s Rights Organisations – ensure women’s voices are heard
• Enhance women’s languages, digital and technical skills
• Recruit, pay and promote women equally
• Commit to enabling all staff to balance work and home life
• Have a code of practice and clear reporting procedures to report harassment and abuse, without prejudice, and socialise them throughout your organisation.

We welcome any organisation that would like to make this a reality to join us!


Tags: responsible tourism,, human rights

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