By Foday Moriba Conteh
In the bid to celebrate women’s empowerment through Tourism Entrepreneurship in order to enhance the development of women in the tourism sector in Sierra Leone the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs in partnership with World Bank, United Nation World Tourism Organizations (UNWTO) has on Thursday 28th November, 2019 hosted a Freetown Forum on Women Entrepreneurship on Tourism at Bintumani Conference Centre Freetown.
In her statement during the ceremony Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Dr. Memunatu Pratt, disclosed that participants are witnessing the first ever Freetown Forum on Women’s Empowerment in Tourism for Sierra Leone, adding that Tourism is a tool to empower women in various aspects underscoring how it has the potential to assist women acquire increasing power and control over national, natural and cultural resources through economic, educational and political empowerment.
She said that the event came at a time when tremendous work have been put into establishing the framework for promoting women’s rights and empowerment in the tourism sector by the Ministry, the World Bank, MDAs and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
She noted that prior to this Freetown Forum significant events have been held;
- The UNWTO Female Tourism Ministers Leadership meetings in Spain and Accra
- The Launch of the Sierra Leone Gender Women and Tourism Programme in October 2019
- The First Regional Congress on Women’s Empowerment in Tourism Accra
- The Launch of the Gender In Tourism Study by UNWTO, The World Bank and GIZ which have an action plan to be implemented by member states
- The Ministry of Tourism and Culture is working in close collaboration with relevant line MDAs but especially with the Ministries of Trade and Gender in promoting women empowerment in Entrepreneurship.
Dr. Memunatu Pratt said that the purpose of the event is to enhance and continue to build on the institutional strategies and activities of their work in mainstreaming gender and promoting gender parity, addressing gender stereotyping, poor education and skills, leadership and disparity between men and women in accessing capital, financial inclusion and decent work in the tourism sector. She added that this also builds on the two fundamental frameworks of the Women in Development, Women and Development and the existing Gender and Development frameworks
She noted that promoting gender equality and women empowerment in tourism matters for two reasons: firstly, the Government of Sierra Leone and international organizations are committed to it through the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and secondly, the implementation of the strategic actions of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals.
She also indicated that the programme will support and empower women’s skills education and opportunities for socio-economic empowerment in nation building and further raise awareness for sustainable tourism development within the tourism sector and it will also support and promote women’s entrepreneurship, innovations and other employment targets groups in the sector through sensitization and awareness raising activities for effective and proper gender mainstreaming which resonates with the vision of His Excellency the President, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction Agenda of diversifying our economy through tourism and the other growth sectors.
“His Excellency the President always talks about how hard — working Sierra Leonean women are and indeed we have a lot of potentials. We are investing a lot on women empowerment through tourism because at the end of the day, it is not only women that will benefit but the whole of society benefits if women are empowered,” she maintained.
She emphasized that His Excellency the President gives a lot of prominence to investing in women and girls as they constitute the finest flowers of this country’s population saying we are beginning to see the fruits and that hosting a forum on women and tourism is just the beginning as the Ministry and its sub vented agencies will commence work in giving particular importance to women in the areas of hospitality, travel, SMEs, climate change, beach development and destination promotion, tourism education, entertainment, arts and crafts, agro tourism and business development in supporting their work in the area of monuments and relics.
She ended by calling on other Development Partners, including the Private Sector to support the tourism sector in this effort.
Senior Private Sector Specialist Markets and Technology Tourism (World Bank), Louise D Twining-Ward on behalf of the Country Manager of the World Bank disclosed that Tourism is a very important economic driver and can create job employment and also serves as an important source for foreign exchange investment, adding that the World Bank has supported about 50 development projects across the world for the past 20 years.
She noted that a very important aspect of Tourism is that it enhances economic diversification and general inclusion in order to provide more opportunities for women entrepreneurship in the normal sector of the economy.
She said that despite the dormancy of women in the tourism sector there is still an important achievement gap, adding that the Freetown Forum on Women Entrepreneurship on Tourism is geared towards discussing other findings on two publications which are the United Nations Board Tourism Organization Global report on Women and Tourism and the 2019 Women and Tourism Enterprise.
She said that these will enable them expose opportunities and challenges faced by women in tourism and said that with the two publications it will enhance the development and state of women in tourism.
Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Robert Chakanda in his statement on behalf of the Minister said that Government is effectively focused on implementing Sierra Leone’s Medium Term National Development Plan 2019-2023 as well as their Development Partners, who have supported them to implement the Plan since it was launched in February this year, adding that he is particularly happy that the Ministry of Tourism has been very active in ensuring the unlocking of the enormous economic and fiscal potentials of the tourism sector, as that is central to their economic diversification drive towards building a resilient and productive economy.
He said that they are more delighted to note the strong political leadership they current have in the sector, with laudable foresight to place women at the centre of its activities. He pointed out how it has been increasingly realized across the globe that women’s economic participation is a major determinant of shared and sustainable growth and development.
He assured the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs and other Government institutions and their Development Partners to support in ensuring an increased share of Women Entrepreneurship in the Tourism Sector.
He applauded the Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the Deputy Minister and Administrative Leadership and Staff of the Ministry for staying the course of promoting women entrepreneurship in the sector highlighting how they would like to call on other Development Partners, including the Private Sector to support the tourism sector in this effort.