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Check out the article of the founder of Vivejar, Marianne Costa, published on March 8th, Women’s International Day, at Folha de S. Paulo Online.

Why I believe tourism can empower women?

It is almost like asking myself why I do what I do today. Like every human person (mainly women) I already asked myself if I’m really addressing my disquiets (or purpose, using the trendy word) in my work. After a profound reflexion (during a beautiful coach process based on Anthroposofhy), I discovered that what really bothers me and at the same time encourages me to do something about it is: 1) the Brazilian low self-esteem (we usually think all that we have is worse than the rest of the world); 2) the prejudice against everything that is different from us, whether of social class, race or gender (I have always seen beauty and richness in diversity); and finally 3) little choice opportunities for women, either because of the absence of privileges, or even because of social pressure (who doesn’t have a friend who got married, had children or followed a career – or the three options together – for “free and spontaneous pressure”? I know a lot of girls, but quite a few boys in this situation.

After putting my anguishes out, it was time to think about how I wanted to address them! What were truly my wishes? During an intense thinking, I concluded that what I really want is to create opportunities for women to change their stories through the right to CHOOSE.

It seems simple, but when we are talking about women from small communities spread all over Brazil – in my opinion, the places where we have the best experiences, the best stories, the best food, in summary, the real Brazil – most of these women DO NOT HAVE CHOICES. Stay or leave, get married or stay single, study or don’t. Many of them do what they do because they NEED. Do they like it? Sometimes yes, they learn how to like it. They are strong, resilient, able to find beauty and happiness in small things. But if they could go back and have a choice, they might have followed different paths.And how can I help these women, daughters and granddaughters, change their realities? Using Tourism, through Vivejar.

Do you know how? Creating such straight results:

1. Income generation: tourism is an economic activity. In the communities where we work, women are paid for all the time and work dedicated to tourists: for the lodging offered in their homes or family inns, for the delicious meals they prepare us, for the workshops, activities and talks they offer us! Earnings that, most times, weren’t previously provided (extra income) go straight into their hands to make dreams happen, like a small home reform or the acquisition of an important or desired good. Income equals dream fulfilment!

2. Preservation of culture and environment: assuming that the tourist comes and of course, wants to know the history, local customs, enjoy the natural areas available and visit the most relevant places of the community, it is very important that everything is there, taken care of, clean, preserved! One more reason for the community to appropriate, keep and improve more and more. Preservation in this case equals income! Good for the community, good for the tourists too!

3. Self-esteem increase: we know the motivational value of praise and public recognition. At work, it renews our energy, satisfaction and desire to be better and better. In community tourism, when a tourist chooses to spend his free time (today increasingly scarce) in that community, it can be regarded as a great compliment. And when he is willing to pay to live that day to day experience, sleeping in their houses, eating their typical homemade dishes in the yard, straight from the kitchen, and keen to know their activities, as crafts and fishing, be guided by tracks and dance and celebrate TOGETHER with everyone, isn’t it a super compliment? Someone who is willing to invest to get to know my life, which until then I could even find dull, makes me feel worthy. Praise is good and we like it very much!

And by the way, why women?

Well, besides feminine, feminist and activist for the cause of women entrepreneurship and empowerment, I do have a very objective justification. Investing in Women is investing in the COLLECTIVE, in local development. Muhammad Yunus (my idol), Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for setting up a beautiful microcredit project in Bangladesh in the 1970s, in which only women could take loans, says: “They are the poorest of the poor. And they are desperate to take proper care of their children. Men are not with their children in times of crisis. They are. They have more reasons to get out of poverty, their children”. Since then, the main projects of socioeconomic development in the world have woman as main protagonists. In Vivejar, it would be no different!

Marianne Costa, has a bachelor degree in Tourism. She is the founder of Vivejar, cofounder of Raízes Desenvolvimento Sustentável, and a finalist of the Social Entrepreneur of Future Awards from Folha de São Paulo.