Women lead the way in tourism industry

Soraya de Bruyn and Bilqees Baker attended the workshop.

Women in the Bo-Kaap tourism sector are doing it for themselves and empowering others at the same time.

This was clear as the community held a tourism workshop at the Bo-Kaap civic centre on Women’s Day, Wednesday August 9.

Bilqees Baker, a tour guide who runs her own business, said women were leading the way in the sector. “When I look around, I see the challenges that we face.

“The challenges that we talk about are not gender-related. I don’t think we have that problem in Bo-Kaap. Our women are strong women.”

She said among the issues she was concerned about, were dirty streets, the parking problem and the buses in Wale Street.

“As a tour guide when you meet your tourists, you have to find another spot to meet them or else you have to scream above the noise. The buses pose a problem. I feel like we need more tour guides in our area.”

She said her organisations had trained three people a few years ago but “we need to motivate for that to happen again”.

“I think it’s important for people to have the right to tell the story. It’s a way for them to relate the passion and their history. There are also lots of people in Bo-Kaap, who are unemployed.

“Youth as well as adults are keen on it and that’s why there are people here today. They may have had ideas for years but didn’t know how to carry them forward. Now, maybe through the civic’s initiatives, they can find their niche in the tourism industry.”

Ms Baker said that she would encourage more women in the community to become involved in the sector. “I think that if you attend any civic meeting you will always see that there are more women than men. If you look at the committee, there are more women than men. We are vocal (and) we like getting things done.

“I’m encouraged by the number of women here. I feel that there are skills that women in our community have, even from the clothing industry, that we can use in the tourism industry.

“They can create jobs for other people and teach skills to the youth. The women have a lot to offer and because of their strong personalities they get things done.”

Galieja Martin, who offers student accommodation at her home, also encouraged more women to get involved in tourism.

She was also at the workshop on Women’s Day.

“The best thing was the interaction with the students,” she said.

“We can learn about their culture and they can learn about ours.”

She agreed with Ms Baker that it was empowering for women to be creating their own jobs. “I agree 200 percent. It is empowering. Not all of us can go out and look for jobs and we are surviving on our pensions.”

She said it was about creating opportunities for others in the community as well as themselves and taking it step by step.

Jacky Poking, who holds the tourism portfolio of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association, said while it was significant that the event was being held on Women’s Day, it was also important to include everyone in the community that had an interest in the tourism sector.

Ms Poking said the workshop was a follow-up to a meeting they had had with former tourism minister Derek Hanekom last August and that it was important to hold events which not only identified challenges but also considered what the possible solutions were.

“We can have guidelines for tourism in Bo-Kaap. We already know it doesn’t benefit Bo-Kaap so what can we do to change that? The vision is to have that discussion and how we are going to take this forward and make it sustainable.”

She said this would be the first of many workshops organised by the community and that they would draft tourism guidelines for the Bo-Kaap. “Most of our women in Bo-Kaap, who are working from home, are in tourism. Whether they are guides, giving accommodation to students or doing food demonstrations… it’s the women that do this.”

She said she was encouraged by the number of people taking part in the workshop. Ms Poking said the next workshop was planned for Saturday August 19 and will take place from 2pm. For more information contact Ms Poking on 076 780 2367.