By Evelyn Muronji Walluckano
My name is Evelyn Muronji Walluckano. I’ve been working in the tourism industry for nine years, after pursuing two diplomas—in food production and in tour guiding and administration. When I enrolled in college, the ratio of men to women was 4:1 in the same course but looking at the number of women doing tour guiding now, it is almost zero. In Kenya, there are less than 10 female tour guides. This is due to the old perception that a tour guide needs to be a male to take care of tourists on safari. The majority of women, even after completing their college studies in tour guiding and administration, end up in administrative roles, leaving field work roles to men.
Despite years of academic analysis and feminist activity, prestigious international resolutions and declarations of intent, and an increased reputation of women’s issues in the discourses of governmental and NGOs alike, progress towards gender equality is still slow.
Women in the tourism industry in Kenya are treated as second class compared to their male counterparts. Even though many women have apt skills and knowledge, they are prejudiced in terms of remuneration, career growth and leadership roles. The contempt shown to women stems from the outdated belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and to look after the family, while the man is the head of the household. This belief has evolved and has surfaced in many organizations in the tourism industry in Kenya.
I worked for an organization which followed this old-fashioned principle. My career growth was stagnant, and I was never nominated for skill development workshops. My male counterparts, however, were given every opportunity to improve and were selected for all leadership roles. I can confidently say that I was a top performer in my outfit, surpassing my male colleagues, but the organization neither commended me nor nominated me for any posts.
Frustration grew and God answered my prayer in the form of a new job at Adventure Alternative. Here, I’ve found a friendly team and work-oriented family. Everyone is regarded as an individual and not by gender. My career is progressing and my director, Mr. Gavin Bate, holds briefings and mentors us intensively. He gives everyone an equal shot at becoming their best and he goes the extra mile to support each one’s development—our efforts as a team and as an individual are recognized.
At Adventure Alternative, I’ve been given opportunities to work in the male dominated environment of tour guiding. I believe that if we have the willingness to learn from others and trust in ourselves, women can have a brighter future. The sky is the limit!
One of my greatest achievements has been to summit the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. I had always desired to do this, but thought it was harder than climbing Mount Kenya (which I had summited 9 times). Even with great fear of failure, I managed to be the first in our group to reach the highest peak, Uhuru Peak.
I feel empowered not only at work, but everywhere I go, because I have already overcome my lack of self-worth by committing to who I want to become. To all my fellow women in the tourism sector, I encourage you to take action and go with desire for your dreams. Do not limit your self-worth. We need to empower ourselves in this male dominated industry.