As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world today, Abigail Healy speaks to Adrienne Lee, director of development at the Planeterra Foundation, about its projects that support women worldwide
Established by G Adventures’ Founder Bruce Poon Tip in 2003, the Planeterra Foundation revealed its first impact report in 2016. It showed that so far, during its 14 years of operation, the non-profit organisation has supported more than 1,500 women via its global projects.
Director of development Adrienne Lee explains why projects focusing on empowering women are so significant to its work.
“Gender inequality is a major barrier around the world with women so often having a lesser voice compared to men. With tourism a key economic driver in many countries, it can provide opportunities to address this imbalance,” she says.
One project Lee is particularly excited about is the Sthree Craft Shop and Cafe.
Part of the Women’s Development Centre in Kandy, Sri Lanka, which aims to combat violence against women and empower them, the craft shop and cafe offers access to resources and training opportunities with a space for women to sell their handicrafts.
“It was a tiny space, almost like a warehouse, and not somewhere tourists would go,” says Lee.
“So we approached them – noticing they were doing such great work and with tourism in Sri Lanka booming – to see how we could help. We donated almost £20,000 to the project to revamp the craft shop and add a working kitchen and this year 3,000 G Adventures travellers will visit and enjoy a meal there as part of their itinerary.”
She adds that the project now directly supports 100 female entrepreneurs at the craft shop and cafe and indirectly supports another 400 women via the centre’s wider programmes, such as its women’s shelter, using funds raised by the cafe.
Visits to Planeterra’s current 50 projects are included on 206 G Adventures itineraries, whether via a meal, accommodation, transport, a tour or a handicraft outlet.
One more unusual project is the Masaai Clean Cookstoves in Tanzania. Lee explains that smoke inhalation indoors is a huge health issue in Sub-Saharan Africa and this project trains local women to become experts in installing clean stoves. Visitors to the project experience the difference in air quality between a boma (homestead) with a clean cookstove and one without.
“You wouldn’t traditionally think that would be something you’d see as you pass by the Ngorongoro Crater,” exclaims Lee, adding that everyone who goes on the tour pays for a new cookstove. “It’s a great example of paying it forward,” she says.
And the results of Planeterra’s projects are really starting to bear fruit in the longer term too.
“The first cohort of our Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving project in Peru is now seeing all of their children going to university. It’s an illiterate population that has become fully literate,” enthuses Lee.
But despite such successes, Planeterra shows no signs of stopping there.
“Alanna Wallace, coordinator of our Africa programe, is currently out in Zimbabwe working on developing a barbecue lunch programme in Victoria Falls where women will recreate their grandmothers’ recipes. It’s preserving cultures and providing incomes with travellers able to go there to enjoy lunch.”
So aside from showing customers the Planeterra projects they can visit while on a G Adventures tour, how else can agents help?
Lee says: “Firstly, there is an option for customers to add a booking donation to their trip, 100% of which goes towards Planeterra projects. Secondly we can do a lot with a little and the cost of projects ranges from around £1,000 right up to almost £30,000 so agencies can work with us to sponsor a project. If they get in touch with us we are happy to work with them either on an existing project or if they have a particular destination in mind, we can work with them on setting something up.”
With its continued drive to support women globally, it seems there are many more who will benefit from Planeterra’s work over the next 14 years and beyond – and plenty of opportunities for you and your clients to add your support.