At ROAR AFRICA our vision statement: ‘If African women rise, wildlife will thrive” is never far from my mind and I’m happy to say in the light of our most recent Women’s Empowerment Journey, it is fast becoming a reality of which I could not be more proud.
After a daunting year of ‘hanging on’ and supporting a team with no end in sight, I have ridden the waves of fear and despair - as we all have - buoyed only by my passion for Africa and my concern for the tourism industry. So, as I stood at Hemingway’s Hotel in Nairobi a few weeks ago to welcome the group of women who had flown in to join this trip, I was in awe. For these brave and beautiful souls had taken the risk to come and support an industry on its knees. Yes, this trip was about empowering women, it was also about uplifting the entire industry by giving hope to all of us, from the airlines, the porters, the luggage handlers, the drivers, the lodges and all those behind the scenes, who count on tourism for their livelihoods. It was a trip that carried great significance and weight because of all that hangs in the balance for all of us, the world over. The bravery, was rewarded with relief, re-connection and the rewilding of the soul as Africa once more unleashed her magic upon us.
It may seem hard to understand just how travel can have a positive impact not just on conservation, but on the ordinary everyday lives of women. Well, in just over two years, together with Pat Mitchell, I have hosted two ROAR AFRICA Women’s Empowerment Journeys and I can say that I’ve seen the future and it’s a wondrous thing. For me, women’s empowerment has always been less about excluding men than it is about helping women to take an equal seat at the table – and so it is was with absolute wonder that I saw female pilots, female guides, female trackers, female sommeliers, female chefs, female hospitality managers and female conservationists share and realize the value of their contribution on our journey.
Each and every one of the women that we work with in Africa understand that by making a better life for themselves, they are contributing towards the betterment of their families, their communities and the planet as a whole. That is pretty powerful stuff, especially when you consider how hard it is to change norms in Africa where many of these women come from different tribes and speak different languages and dialects. For some, there may be a cultural aversion to women being educated and having jobs, despite the high unemployment rates and obvious benefits thereof. Yet, despite the plethora of challenges that these women face on a daily basis – here we are, two trips under our belts and there’s not only more support and ongoing dialogue but a growing collective consciousness within the local communities around the changing role of women in the safari industry. Not least the fact that on this trip, we learnt of a Samburu tribeswoman, (the Samburu are a deeply patriarchal society) now driving (unheard of) a Land Rover and working to protect lions!
While our job as the architects of your travel dreams has never been more complicated - and believe me, it is tricky to travel – the difference that your presence makes in Africa is beyond compare. I will forever remember the warmth and welcome from the teams on the ground and their genuine gratitude at being able to welcome us back. Remember, that while we fight for our health and safety in the western world, there are eco-warriors trying to do the same in Africa whilst continuing their work as guardians of the wild so we have something to go back to. The work of bringing a trip like this to realization, at a time like this was indeed an enormous challenge. However, the little text messages, that I got throughout the trip from both men and women had my heart bursting with joy and the dissolved any difficulty.
Male guide at Segera
‘Happy International Women’s day to you! Congratulations on this great day, you are doing an amazing job by empowering and inspiring the women across the world. Keep going, you are inspiring more than you can imagine.’
Female guide at Segera
‘Thank you so much for this women’s empowerment experience at Segera. Personally, it has empowered me beyond my expectations. Being with my sisters from Angama and meeting all the women you brought, and then spending quality time with them really made me stronger. I was going through hard times that made me almost lose hope but after this amazing, powerful time I feel full of new energy. Honestly, I am not the same women I was before. Thank you.’
It is my fervent hope that these accounts and the bravery of the women who traveled with us last month, will give you the confidence to travel to Africa with us once more. Because by traveling you will not only be supporting women’s empowerment but also kickstarting the tourism industry and raising awareness around the conservation of our precious wildlife and wild spaces. There is an old African proverb that says: ‘When you educate a man you educate an individual, but when you educate a woman you educate a family or a nation.’
My deepest gratitude to all those who partook in this trip and to all the men who stand and continue to stand beside us. Thank you Jens Kozany and your incredible Segera team for taking such great care of us.