Africa's Future May Depend on Women's Employment

How Pondoland's working women are using tourism to keep civil war at bay

| February 19, 2004

Pondoland has all of the necessary ingredients for civil strife: an increasing toll of HIV infections, a severe water and land shortage, and a trend towards urban migration. But the African state is not yet convinced that civil war is written in its destiny.

According to research conducted by Population Action International, the most effective method of countering the predisposition to civil war is 'to improve women's access to education, family planning, and economic opportunities.' So-called 'Pro-Poor' tourist programs such as the E.U.-supported Wild Coast Trails Community Tourism Initiative are heeding this advice with their mission to spread the economic benefits of tourism to the less fortunate.

'Pro-Poor' tourist initiatives, which focus on a region's natural assets, employ local women as tour guides and therefore help them resist the pressure to move to urban areas in search of employment. The profession of tour guide is not a lucrative one; in fact, it provides just enough income to cover basic needs. But, insofar as it counteracts the pressure to take on jobs in the domestic arena, which involve a great risk of sexual exploitation and AIDS, the program may be saving lives.

Population Action International is optimistic about the effect of initiatives such as Wild Coast's. The programs 'can help reduce birth rates, slow urban migration and ultimately reduce the risk of civil conflict.' The European Union plans to expand the program and hopes it will serve as a model for similar programs in war-vulnerable areas.
-- Andi McDaniel

Go there>> A Tourist's Guide to Civil War

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