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IORA Day 2024

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Day, celebrated on March 7th, 2024, serves as a pivotal moment to recognise the achievements of IORA member states in fostering regional cooperation.

Deeply invested in the Indian Ocean region, Mauritius stands as a founding member and host of the IORA Secretariat. This commitment translates into a relentless pursuit to strengthen IORA’s role and its benefits for member states and beyond. Recognising our shared maritime heritage, and the aspirations for peace and prosperity that bind us, consolidating relations among Indian Ocean countries becomes imperative. Moreover, IORA serves as a powerful platform for advancements in specific areas, as seen with its efforts in promoting women’s empowerment and tourism. Mauritius stands out not only for its strategic location but also for its commitment to empowering women within the tourism sector.

Situated amidst the vibrant tapestry of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius boasts a rich blend of cultures and traditions. This island nation has actively championed women’s participation in the tourism industry, recognising their significant contribution to the sector’s success. As the chair of the IORA Core Group on Tourism and host of a previous IORA event focused on tourism, Mauritius has demonstrably advanced the cause of women’s economic empowerment within the region.

IORA Day was celebrated on March 22024 at Tribeca Mall, and embassies in Mauritius were invited to participate, offering a taste of their cultures through food, captivating performances, stunning art displays, and more. This exciting event featured a special focus on women entrepreneurs from various IORA member states. These talented individuals showcased and their products, allowing visitors to discover unique crafts and locally made goods while supporting women-led businesses.

Adding to the vibrant celebration at the IORA Day open fair, the Ministry of Fisheries, Mauritius, also played a key role in educating and raising awareness about the importance of a sustainable Indian Ocean. In line with the theme, « Ensuring a Sustainable Indian Ocean for Future Generations: Our Ocean Our Life, » the Ministry likely showcased initiatives, shared information, and perhaps even hosted interactive activities to engage visitors. Their presence at the fair underscored the collective responsibility of member states in protecting the health and vitality of the Indian Ocean for generations to come.

Unlocking the Potential of Women in Tourism
A recent report by IORA highlighted the crucial role women play in the tourism sector. In Mauritius, women comprise 42.6% of the tourism workforce, exceeding the national average of 38.4%. This presence translates to diverse contributions, encompassing roles in hospitality, travel agencies, tour operations, cultural preservation, and local crafts. Women entrepreneurs are increasingly leading the way in establishing homestays, cafes, and souvenir shops, offering visitors authentic experiences while fostering local economic development.
Considering the importance of nature-based tourism and the need for caution when turning the page on COVID-19 restrictions, a significant step was taken with the « IORA Workshop on Nature-Based Tourism & Lessons Learned from COVID-19, » held in Mauritius from 03 to 05 May 2023. This workshop, organised by the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Mauritius in collaboration with IORA, aligned with the strategic objectives of the IORA Work Plan on Tourism.

The workshop equipped participants with valuable insights:
• Understanding the fundamentals and opportunities/challenges of nature-based tourism.
• Effectively integrating nature-based tourism into national policies and strategies.
• Adopting a collaborative approach to develop nature-based tourism for improved livelihoods and resilience across the Indian Ocean Rim.
• Identifying regional issues and proposing solutions for successful implementation.
• Sharing best practices and experiences in developing nature-based tourism.

Progressing towards a more inclusive future
While achieving complete equality for women in the Mauritian tourism industry remains an ongoing pursuit, several positive developments are paving the way for a brighter future. While certain limitations persist in terms of access to finance, training, and mentorship opportunities, the dedication to creating an inclusive and empowering environment is gaining significant traction.

One significant step forward is Mauritius’s ratification of the iILO C190 Convention. This commitment to protecting workers from violence and harassment underscores a wider effort to foster a safe and supportive workplace for all, including those in the tourism sector.
Furthermore, encouraging initiatives are springing up within the private sector. Hotels and businesses are actively supporting women entrepreneurs in the handicraft sector. These programs go beyond simply purchasing products, often providing training, market access, and networking opportunities. Additionally, some organizations are implementing progressive policies like extended paternity leave and actively challenging gender stereotypes in their communication and practices.
These efforts demonstrate a growing understanding of the vital role women play in building a sustainable and thriving tourism sector. As Mauritius continues its journey towards a more inclusive industry, these positive developments pave the way for a more equitable and empowering future for women across the sector.
The Path Forward
Moving forward, Mauritius can continue to lead the way in empowering women within the IORA region by:
• Developing a comprehensive gender equality strategy for the tourism sector: This strategy should address key issues like access to finance, training, mentorship opportunities, and leadership development programs for women. The strategy should also consider the unique needs of women entrepreneurs and informal workers within the sector.
• Collecting and analysing data on women’s participation in tourism: This data should encompass demographics, employment types, wage gaps, and barriers faced by women in the industry. Robust data will be vital in informing policy decisions, tracking progress towards achieving gender equality, and identifying areas requiring further intervention.
• Encouraging collaboration between the public and private sectors: Public-private partnerships can drive innovative solutions and accelerate progress towards women’s empowerment in tourism. Collaborative efforts can focus on skills development programs, mentorship initiatives, and joint marketing campaigns highlighting women-led businesses and experiences.
• Promoting knowledge sharing and best practices within the IORA region: Mauritius can leverage its experience and success stories to inspire and guide other member states in their efforts to empower women in the tourism sector. This can be achieved through regional workshops, knowledge-sharing platforms, and collaborative research initiatives.

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