Meet the trailblazing female guides of the Tanzanian tourism industry: advancing gender equality through outdoor pursuits on Mount Kilimanjaro

Asifiwe Makere at sunrise near the summit of Kilimanjaro. Image courtesy of Marinel Malvar de Jesus.

Every year, tourists from across the globe visit the mountainous Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania to participate in the hiking, biking and trekking that the dramatic landscape is known for. Businesses selling tours have become an important aspect of the Tanzanian tourism economy: a report by the World Bank in 2013 estimated that they generated 400 seasonal jobs for guides, 10,000 roles for porters, and 500 for cooks. Despite this, Tanzanian women struggle to enter the industry; and upon gaining employment face additional challenges as a result of their gender.

One such woman is tour guide Glory Tobias Salema, whose experiences are detailed in Alpinist Magazine’s recent article by Marinel Malvar de Jesus (2021). In the article, Salema explains how when she began her career, she was one of two female guides working on the mountains. According to Salema, gender roles form a major barrier to women’s employment in trekking businesses: Tanzanian women traditionally work at home, yet leading a trek involves venturing out for weeks at a time. Other issues include the need for women-only tents to ensure female guide’s safety, and the extra-scrutiny that they are subjected to from male-coworkers.

To facilitate more Tanzanian women breaking into the industry, in 2015 Salema launched the Tanzanian Women Guides Foundation. The organization offers a month-long programme whereby women demonstrate skills needed to become a guide. It then pays for successful candidates to undertake the government’s official guide-training course. Since its initial setup, over 20 guides have graduated from the programme, and there has been a steady increase in interest from women who now see becoming a guide as a legitimate employment option.

However, complications have arisen since the Covid-19 pandemic, as the mass cancellation of tour bookings from March 2020 onwards made all mountain workers redundant overnight. One guide trained through the Foundation, Rehema Olotu, has resorted to selling shoes in the meantime, but says the income is insufficient to support herself and her family.

Due to the devastating effects of the pandemic on the tourism industry, Salema has called for businesses to provide administrative skills-training so that guides are able to find alternative sources of in off-season. Looking forward, she proposes that once tourists begin to return to the region, they hold the potential to be powerful advocates for improving gender equality, by only booking tours with businesses who have female guides. It is hopeful in the future, more women like Salema and Olotu will be empowered to tour the mountains and transform the Tanzanian tourism industry.

Read full story on the Alpinist website.


Malvar de Jesus, M., 2021. The Fight for Workforce Equity on Kilimanjaro. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 January 2021].

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