On Mother Earth and Earth Mothers: Empowering Rural Women through Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a recently established term that describes a more community and environmentally driven venture into foreign countries.
For too long, the tourism industry has benefited from the exploitation of marginalised communities and the natural environments they live in. Often, it is the local women who end up feeling the brunt of these toxic enterprises.
Unfortunately, even when large-scale tourism companies claim to do good by bringing troves of wealthy tourists into “exotic” rural areas, only a very small percentage of the profits are ever shared with the communities that support these trips. Plus, the environmental damage can be severe.
However, a new and more gender-inclusive wave of tourism is on the rise. Its focus is placing women into empowering roles that promote education, financial growth, and a more equally dispersed allocation of traditional gender roles.
What Is Ecotourism?
Ecotourism is a form of tourism that places significant emphasis on environmental conservation and local community connection and upliftment.
While traditional tourism focuses purely on profits with little regard for the social and environmental impact it leaves behind, ecotourism is different. It aims to pay full and intentional respect to the people, culture, land, and animals it encounters.
Ecotourism provides an opportunity for travelers to engage with foreign environments in a more sustainable and responsible way. Aimed at community engagement and development, the idea behind ecotourism is for tourists to establish deeper connections with the places they visit, coming away with an education and refreshed awareness for the beautiful world we live in.
Traditional mass tourism contributes heavily to overcrowding, greenhouse gas emissions, and a loss of social and cultural authenticity for the hosting communities.
In addition to this, most of the profits that do end up going towards hosting communities tend to go to the men who run these communities. Further reinforcing the patriarchal system that inhibits women, especially those living in rural environments.
In an attempt to change this, ecotourism aims to develop a travel culture led by respect for these communities and the women who have struggled to benefit from them in the past.
The Relationship Between Mother Earth And Earth Mothers
Humankind has been provided with everything we need to survive and thrive, yet we have turned our backs on the Mother who raised us. Throughout history, humans have favored profit over peace, and control over equality.
This unhealthy pattern of behavior towards maternal figures has translated into our societal roles, too. Too often, women and mothers are forced into restrictive positions with limited potential, and asked to choose between personal growth and caring for their young.
Furthermore, the pressures and expectations placed on women are very rarely placed on men. Perpetuating the stereotype of mothers who stay mothers forever and men who are actively encouraged to pursue personal or professional goals.
Ecotourism is about more than just community empowerment. It is about female empowerment. Instead of participating in systems that are patriarchal and repressive towards women, ecotourism provides women with more opportunities for growth and education.
How Ecotourism Can Empower And Benefit Rural Women
Ecotourism without female empowerment is not true ecotourism at all.
When applied in the correct way, ecotourism is a tool for uplifting women in rural communities and providing them with sustainable opportunities for further education, financial freedom, and career fulfilment.
Here are some practical ways in which women in rural environments can be empowered by the ecotourism industry:
By bringing tourists into rural areas and setting up community engagement programs, ecotourism provides women with the opportunity to connect with people from foreign lands and exchange valuable knowledge with others.
By promoting a more community-focussed travel experience, the ecotourism industry may enable local women to hone in on their skills and set up their own workshops that give them a greater position within their community and promote further exploration of skills.
Many of the women in small rural villages do not have access to the proper resources or educational tools they need to progress in life. But as more consciously minded travelers visit, they may make useful connections with people who can uplift them.
- Wealth Distribution
Much of the time, when a tourism program interacts with a rural village, they will do dealings almost exclusively with local men, not women. Even though the responsibilities are shared between both genders.
What this means is that it is the men who accept, store, and ultimately decide how that money gets spent, and why. Unfortunately, that means any unseen needs that the women of the village may have will not be met as they would be if women were compensated directly.
Ecotourism aims to distribute its payment to communities more equally, attributing compensation towards both men and women who play significant roles in programs and workshops.
- Equal Opportunities
Another aspect of empowerment that ecotourism offers comes in the form of opportunity. Throughout history, industries from just about every sector have been dominated by men, excluding women as a default strategy for maintaining control and profit.
As the world evolves to become more accepting and supportive of gender equality, opportunities for career and financial growth are beginning to increase.
The ethos of ecotourism is deeply rooted in equality, which is why so many new travel programs are being developed that place women at the forefront of operations. These programs see to it that every opportunity is provided for progression and career advancement.
The Future Of Tourism Begins With Equality
Alongside the ethos of environmental and cultural conservation that ecotourism holds comes an innate agenda to promote a more equality-driven culture of travel and tourism.
As the world begins to re-open the gates for international travel, ecotourism advocates are hoping that big changes come to the way people perceive travel. The foundational concepts of ecotourism are by nature that of sustainability, diversity, and equality. And there is no shortage of sustainable travel experiences that meet these criteria.
With these core values, ecotourism separates itself from the toxic mass tourism industry. Aiming instead to dismantle the culture of colonial exploitation and introduce a new era of respect for indigenous land, animals, culture, and of course, people.