Aiming at bringing forth the strength of women in tourism industry and also highlighting the opportunities that exist in the sector, the Tourism Ministry organised a webinar titled “Weaving Growth of Rural India with SEWA & Airbnb India” as part of the Dekho Apna Desh initiatives recently.
The tourism sector currently provides through direct and indirect jobs 12.95 per cent of all jobs in India and given the growing interest in experiential tourism, there exists immense economic opportunities for the local communities especially for women entrepreneurs.
Empowering women by supporting them to become financially independent not only helps generate income, but also creates a tremendous engine for social change.
The webinar discussed the empowerment of women through improving the livelihoods of self-employed women workers from the informal economy through various initiatives using technology, technical training, micro finance etc.
The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was born in 1972 to empower women in the textile field. SEWA is the only national union of women workers from the unorganised sector in India with more than 1.5 million membership across 18 states in India.
Today 35 per cent of SEWA’s membership is from the young generation.
SEWA forayed into tourism a few years back and is already spinning a success story in Gujarat.
Airbnb has a partnership with the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), an organisation representing more than 1.5 million self-employed women living mostly in India’s rural areas.
Till now, more than 4,500 guests have visited 40 SEWA Homestays from over 15 different countries.
This partnership gives tourists a unique and authentic experience of culture and heritage and at the same time the women entrepreneurs from even the marginal economic sections are provided with an income source.
The webinar was presented by Vineeta Dixit, Head, Public Policy, India, and Tejasbhai Raval, Technology Head, SEWA, who explained the journey and incredible experiences of the partnership between SEWA and Airbnb and how it has benefited both partners.
Two of the most successful and oldest members of SEWA who run homestays, Gauriben and Meetaben, spoke about their experiences for hosting guests in their homestays and how it has benefited them not only economically but technologically, too.
It was a proud moment when Gauriben spoke on how not only she made money for herself, but her whole household including her husband who worked in her enterprise apart from her employees.
So heartwarming was the invite she gave, welcoming all to visit her homestay.
Tourism Additional Director-General Rupinder Brar emphasised on the Vocal for Local initiative of the Government of India and after hearing the success stories of the two SEWA members.
She also spoke about the life changing impact that the Dhordo residents experienced when the Prime Minister, who was then the Gujarat Chief Minister, created the Tent City at Bhuj after the earthquake at Bhuj in 2001.
In the Statue of Unity location at Kevadia also, there are women from neighbouring villages who have formed Self Help Groups and with support of the State Government are running cafeterias, while guides play many other roles in the tourism sector.
Brar reiterated the government's vision of furthering women's participation in tourism and that women can be game-changers in this sector in years to come.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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