Why do you think your clients are interested specifically in these women empowering projects ?
I find that most of the clients who have and are booking this activity are strong women. Women who are paying for the Safari or women who are leading the Safari planning process. They want to enjoy the amazing wildlife Tanzania has to offer but they want to know more about Tanzania and maybe make a difference when they leave. We also hope they continue to support these projects.
The projects we take our clients are not charity projects. They are projects where women are hired to work - hence earning their own money - by making jewelry, art, etc. for the customer both in Tanzania, the traveler in Tanzania as well as international buyer.
When I tell them they will be visiting these women who are benefitting from being given work skill hence gaining financial empowerment, they want to go more. It helps when I say these are not tourist destinations and you will have a local friend of Journey To Africa guide you. They will get to see how these women are improving their lives, their children's and family in general. Women are making money so they are sending their children to school with some making these decision against their husband's wish but they are the breadwinners now. Water pumps, gas burner instead of charcoal [though some have no interest in changing and we should be open to their decision even though it may not make sense to us], solar lights, etc. these are the improvements our clients can help towards when they purchase commodities made by our Maasai women.
Why are there more opportunities for them now in the developing world?
Foreign interest is high. You see designers like Valentino using Maasai huts as background for the clothing ad. US companies focused on women are going on photo shots with Tanzanian landscape, people, art and crafts like Net-a-Porter or JCrew. Fabric, jewelry inspired by African art used in our western world. With direct reference to the Journey To Africa project, the jewelry created by our Maasai ladies is worn by royalty [Princess Caroline of Monaco] and is used in NY Fashion shows.
I am quite certain this is creating an interest with my clients to go to the source and learn more. Also, there are operators like me who want clients to see more of Tanzania than just wildlife. We are taking them to off-the-beaten path villages, asking them to stop by local schools and charities -- and if they are women run, even better as we women should support each other. We want to show them as much of Tanzania as we can. And in some case, we want to show them these projects so they can support them once they get back home.
How much can the travel industry and the revenue it brings make a difference in these women’s lives?
For the most part, the income generated from travelers visiting makes a big impact. The more the people go to Tanzania, the more buying happens because there is more appreciation and awareness, the more dollars go back to the village.
For my Maasai project, basic amenities we take for granted like water, electricity are making daily life manageable for the members in the villages. For example, with time saved from doing chores like fetching water, children are instead going to school and women are able to generate income rather then spend time collecting firewood. Eye sight is saved by bring in gas burners instead of charcoal. Note - some women still resist this change but information is given. Doctor visits are becoming affordable.