This effort in Paraguay felt like a perfect fit for our International Women’s Day focus series. A public-private partnership between household goods company Inverfin and SENATUR, the Paraguayan tourism department, has provided investment to women who wish to turn their private homes into ‘posadas’ – tourist lodges. The program has been a huge success, with over 200 such accommodation businesses now found in more than 60 locations around the country, and 90% of them being run by women. But how does it work?

The partnership supports posada-owners with investment for basic improvements, such as painting jobs, the installation of pipes, cisterns and electric wires, bathroom upgrades and even furniture purchases. In addition to financial assistance, the initiative also includes workshops and meetings, providing lodge-owners (and even tour guides) with a platform for training, exchange and support. And while all this work is going on at local levels, SENATUR has been spreading the word about this network of tourist lodges at the international level, taking their promotion on tour to fairs and exhibitions worldwide.

The aim is to create a national network of lodges which allow domestic and international tourists to experience local customs and culture, while providing locals with home improvements and, most importantly, income. Here, three women talk about their experience with the program, and the impact it has had on their lives:

Regina, Posada RM (in Ayolas, to the South at the border to Argentina)
A while back I had to have a complicated brain surgery, after which I lost my hearing and my sight on one side. I also required physiotherapy. It caused me to suffer from depression and my doctor recommended I do something that I like – something to give me joy but also calm me down. I eventually decided to open a tourist lodge in my home, a decision that changed my life entirely. Today I feel blessed – I have a big patio with comfortable rooms, I can enjoy the peace and quiet of my house and at the same time can welcome visitors. I feel very comfortable. My favourite thing to do is to make tourists feel at home – a lodge is different from a hotel, it’s more intimate and you can share with the people visiting. That is very good because you can learn a lot from them. And the most important thing for me is that I always say that I work for SENATUR.

Mirta, Posada Divino Niño (in Atyrá, east of the capital Asuncion)
I am doing very well with the lodge, I have only two rooms, so it is not much that I have to take care of. Since I opened the lodge I have plenty to do though – I am in charge of the garden and the rooms, making sure everything is tidy and clean, and that the tourists are comfortable. The tourist lodges create development; I have two people from the nearby city working with me. What I like the most is to share my customs and my life with the families and tourists that come to the lodge – I really like to interact with them and show them our beautiful city. The tourists are all very different and come from all over the place – Colombia, Sao Paulo, astronomers from Argentina, and even Italy. One time, I even had to vacate my room so I could fit them all. My Facebook group is always growing and helps me spread the word about my lodge – this weekend for example, I am fully booked.

Doña Ana (in Yaguarón, south of the capital)
It is a very nice experience, doing this work. I love getting to know people and serving them – the best part is having guests from other countries and sharing my culture and our customs with them. I enjoy giving them special attention – much like I did when I used to work at a diner before, but more so now because it is like a family. It is a beautiful experience because the environment as I say is a family environment, because we share everything together.

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