Article by Mina Phillips
COVID-19 has hit everyone in the world pretty hard – especially those within the tourism industry. While some countries are offering their citizens financial support, others are not so fortunate. While Justice Tourism Foundation continues to implement training programs to promote female leadership and entrepreneurship in Uganda, COVID-19 has presented the non-for-profit with a new set of challenges.
“Justice Tourism Foundation was established with the vision of impacting communities in Uganda by using the power of tourism to develop communities, empower women, and reduce poverty”, tells Justice Tourism Foundation’s CEO and Founder James Nadiope. “We strongly believe that travel, when done responsibly, can make a positive difference to locals and the destination, and provide a more authentic experience for the traveller. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism has been severely affected by the (government) putting a lockdown on all tourism activities. This has led to a loss of business for all of our project products like honey, baskets, fashion and community livelihoods.”
Four months into the government-enforced lockdown and curfew, James says that many families “have seen their livelihoods obliterated this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Most families around Kahangi village earn their living by working as casual labourers in tea farms, while other families have been relying on tourism for income which has been severely impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Others own small vegetable kiosks where they sell items each day and have now been stripped off their livelihood during this current COVID – 19 pandemic lockdown.”
Outside of COVID-19, there are already a wide set of challenges that can come with attempting to implement women empowerment programs in Uganda. According to UN Women Africa, “women in Uganda still face discrimination and marginalization due to slow change in attitudes about women in Ugandan society and the culture and practices of public institutions. There are deep-rooted cultural and traditional practices that discriminate against women and girls and customary practices in many parts of Uganda that discriminate in cases of succession and inheritance that limit women’s access to land, finances and property.”
Supporting women in achieving financial independence, and the resulting social and wellbeing benefits, is central to the work that Justice Tourism Foundation carries out. However, COVID-19 has meant that the organisation has had to consider ways to produce alternative income sources for women who have been trained within the tourism industry.
“The long term economic, social and political impact of COVID-19 remains unknown”, notes James. “We initiated the idea of training the women cooperate groups and site tour guides in bee farming (keeping) using local beehives around Kahangi village on the boundaries of Kibale National Park.
The idea is for the beekeeping to improve the livelihoods of rural women through diversified income generation from the sale of quality honey and honey products. This project will also contribute to improving food security, conserving of biodiversity through maintaining bee colonies and bee forage plant species.”
Justice Tourism Foundation has also ensured that there is a recovery plan in place to support local women.
“We distributed vegetable seeds, corn (maize) seeds, and cassava (local type of yam) seeds to our Women cooperative groups to plant in their backyards during this rainy season. When the plants are grown, this will help them to get a quick income and will also support them in feeding their families and improving their family’s nutrition.”
In the meantime, families are facing poverty.
“Many vulnerable families around Kahangi village and the nearby villages are struggling to find means of survival and to feed their families”, tells James. “There is no government support package to assist these rural communities and it’s not yet clear how long the lockdown will last, and whether more severe measures will come into force very soon.
Therefore, in reference to the above current situation affecting these families, we would like to ask the amazing global community to help with some relief funds (humanitarian assistance) so that we can purchase food packs such as rice, cornflour, sugar, salt, cooking oil, soap, medicines and other essential supplies to support more than 200 families in Kahangi village around Kibale National Park in western Uganda, where we work.”
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