Women constitute over 60 percent of the labour force in the tourism sector in Namibia, but the number of women represented at managerial level remains low.
The Namibia Minister of Foreign Affairs, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah says it has to be realised when “we talk of women and tourism we have to look to women as employees and as owners.”
Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the patron of the women in tourism conference celebrated last Friday says there is a need to have a clear strategy to advance the women and tourism idea in order for greater numbers of women to occupy managerial positions in the tourism industry. “I believe the idea of women in tourism conference in Namibia is very important for today and the future, and I want to commend the one who conceived this noble idea. As one of the industries that employ more women through tourism, women can be empowered,” she informed the tourism conference.
“Women need to be empowered and by so doing Namibia will contain poverty and under-development.” As an advocate for women’s emancipation, she singled out Xwama Restaurant in Katutura as a highly commendable enterprise run by a woman, who started out operating from a netted structure to a noteworthy formal business offering traditional African dining.
“All the guests I took there, both foreigners and Namibian, were highly impressed and those who get the chance still go back,” she said.
She attributed women’s under-representation at management level to the fact that not too long ago women were strictly confined to household activities. According to her with the removal of legal barriers to women’s advancement, it is important that as women “we have to rise to the occasion.”
“What has to be clear is that empowerment has come from within. It does not help how many good laws a nation may have on women’s empowerment, if women themselves are not ready to do what is expected from them,” she stressed. She said the tourism sector has the potential to separate people from their families and that is more so the case in Namibia, since most if not all lodges are in isolated areas and one has to leave one’s family for work. She called on the industry to adopt applicable working programmes to ensure family care is not compromised, otherwise there will be no employees.
Nandi-Ndaitwah also said it is necessary to put in place safeguards against women’s abuse in the tourism sector. As part of the Adventure Travel World Summit, Team Destination Namibia hosted the one-day event to bring women achievers from the Namibian tourism sector together for a celebration that is aimed at initiating discussion around addressing some of the challenges women face. The celebration was also intended to provide a platform for Namibian women in the tourism sector to celebrate their achievements, share their different experiences in the sector and to share their hopes and dreams.