Yesterday Government launched the Women’s Desk in the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry to bolster women’s participation in the sector.
This is a welcome development given that for long women have been finding it difficult to operate in the sector on an equal footing with their male counterparts.
For a long time, women have been condemned to auxiliary roles in tourism such as waitresses, craft vendors, receptionists, laundry and sweepers, among others, except for a few in the ilk of Chipo Mutasa, Chipo Mandela and a few others, who made it to the top echelons of the industry.
Yesterday’s timely launch resonates well with the call by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) which has made it mandatory for member-states to come up with policies that deliberately promote women’s participation in mainstream tourism.
The call was premised on the fact that the tourism sector offers significant opportunities to narrow the gender gap in employment and entrepreneurship through the value chain process. That call for gender equality has not been lost on Zimbabwe, which is keen to elevate the status of women in tourism.
The Women’s Desk that was officially launched by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa comes barely a week after she was appointed patron of Women and Tourism.
Her appointment is befitting considering her wealth of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry.
She holds international qualifications in hotel and tourism, making her a suitable candidate for a post of such a magnitude.
The First Lady’s appointment and launch of the desk are among a coterie of measures to further strengthen the tourism sector, one of the country’s major economic pillars.
Tourism is ranked as a major foreign currency earner the world over because of the multiple opportunities it presents in terms of trade, employment creation, cultural exchange and other business opportunities.
Its contribution to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is currently at nine percent and is set to improve, judging by the various initiatives Government is working on.
Even at its weakest point, the tourism sector has demonstrated its potential to create jobs and promote income-generating activities to benefit communities in holiday destination areas.
So women’s participation across the strata of tourism should give a competitive edge to the sector and open up new opportunities for growth, skills, knowledge and experience.
The value chain, which is not only confined to crafts, is so wide and varied, providing various entry points for women employment and opportunities for creating self-employment, while giving access to women to venture into full-scale business.
With the launch of the Women’s Desk, the scale of opportunity is quite high. It also allows women to dream and think big in terms of tourism projects, since the floor will soon be levelled.
The launch of the Women’s Desk speaks to Government’s commitment to ensure equal participation of women in tourism.
That commitment should be supported by setting aside a quota for business opportunities for women.
There is also the need to mobilise resources to support grass-root tourism activities that involve women across all provinces.
Such a mammoth task would undoubtedly be achievable through the involvement and collaboration with existing tourism stakeholders, to capacitate the emerging tourism entrepreneurs.