Here’s the first of the summaries of our three panellists’ presentations at our WTM event ‘Gender Equality and Tourism: How can it be achieved?’

Our Associate Angela Hadjipateras is the founder and Executive Director of Zalala Beach Lodge, which is located on the Central coast of Mozambique in the province of Zambezia. Her decision to invest in tourism was driven by her desire to provide employment and other income-generating opportunities for the people living in this resource-starved part of Mozambique.

The Lodge, comprising 10 bungalows, a restaurant, swimming pool, conference facilities and various beach-based activities, was launched in April 2012 and currently provides employment for 55 staff, the majority of whom have been locally recruited. The lack of schooling and work experience in the local population presented huge challenges at the point of recruitment and subsequently. A Manager with experience of intensive on- the-job training was hired to work with inexperienced staff. Besides lack of confidence, women also faced strong male resistance from husbands and other family members who tried to stop them applying for positions.

angela talkingA vigorous outreach strategy was employed to convince both men and women of the benefits of Lodge employment. This included winning the support of the local leadership and undertaking gender-awareness work to get both men and women on board. Over time, gender-sensitive staff policies have been developed and applied in order to ensure that women staff are able to advance and access the same opportunities as their male colleagues. These include providing training opportunities, recognising women’s strengths and building on these through training to provide promotion opportunities and providing flexibility in working hours to take account of family responsibilities.

Maria, aged 45 years, has been employed as gardener at the Lodge since it opened in 2012: I have never had a paid job before. Working at the Lodge is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life. My life has changed a lot. I have a sofa, TV, freezer, bedding and chairs at home. My husband treats me differently and he listens to what I have to say.

In her presentation at our WTM panel, Angela provided Case Studies of individual women staff, several of whom have been promoted to management level in the company. Angela also spoke of the ways in which the company has sought to provide additional income-generating opportunities for women in the local community, which include crafts training for local women’s groups and business training for savings and credit groups.

Admira has 9 dependents aged 43, single mother of 4, has been working in the laundry since 2013: I used to work in the fields. Now, my life has changed completely. With my monthly salary, I have done a lot for myself and others. I helped my daughter to complete her teacher training and she now has a good job. I am building a house. I have electricity and eat well every day. I also help others, for example buying medicines for relatives. One day, I would like to travel outside this Province and get to know other places and cultures.

Angela pointed out that the basis of success for such initiatives is to find common ground between the interests of women and those of the business. Examples include crafts produced by women’s groups, which are sold in the Lodge shop, traditional dances performed on special occasions and women’s pottery, all of which provide local colour to the Lodge and are strongly appreciated by guests.

Judite is 35, a single mother of one. She is the Community Coordinator: I love working with people and helping others to grow. I used to work for KULIMA (national NGO), but they lost their funding and I lost my job. I became depressed. Since working for Zalala, my former confidence has returned. One of my many dreams has always been to own a car. Since I got a salary raise, I negotiated a loan with Barclays and bought a 4×4. I feel more independent and safer by night.

In conclusion, the experience of Zalala Beach Lodge provides clear evidence of the mutual benefits of promoting women’s role in tourism enterprises. In order for these benefits to be realised, it is necessary to have a clear commitment to equal opportunities at the level of management and to translate this into policy and practice. Furthermore, it is important to develop initiatives aimed at integrating women into the tourism product by working with women in the community in addition to those employed. In so doing, the Zalala experience shows that you arrive at a win-win situation that yields benefits for women and the company in equal measure.