Tourism celebrates the strength of women

In South Africa we usually commemorate Women’s Month in August as a tribute to the thousands of women who protested against the pass laws for women in 1956. These few weeks have given us the opportunity annually, and as a united nation, to celebrate women’s achievements, and to acknowledge the important roles women of all races and religions play in our society today.

This year, Tanda Tula feels it is only appropriate to support the movement #iamtourism, and we are focusing our commitment and energy on the women in the travel industry in South Africa and specifically the incredible women who make up our team.

More than 70% of the travel and tourism industry in this country is made up of women. We salute the 31 women who make up the Tanda Tula family. Their strength, dedication, commitment and daily hard work makes everything in our camps run as smoothly and efficiently as it does. From chefs to housekeepers and laundry managers, scullery workers and waitresses, reservations and finance managers, and educators and company leaders, there are incredible women in almost every department who are helping to create the memorable experiences our guests have from beginning to end.

In order for women to be strong and financially independent in South Africa, they need to be able to work and earn a living so that they can support their families. However, sadly, as a tourist destination depending largely on international guests, we are powerless to operate at full capacity due to the restrictions implemented by government at the moment. And so, most of the incredibly talented women who work at Tanda Tula are unable to be at camp fulfilling their roles, their lives have been drastically affected.

We have chatted to some of the strong women in our team about how COVID-19 has affected them personally and the toll it is taking on their lives. Here are their stories:

Clenny Seoke: Duty Manager

Tanda Tula - Celebrating Women's Month in South Africa

“I have been terribly affected. The lack of money means I struggle to buy the same food as I did before. School fees are expensive, and I am trying to pay that too. It is hard to take care of my family properly. I see all my neighbours at home who are employed in the tourism industry and everyone is suffering. Everyone is at home because they cannot be at work and you can see how hard it is for them. A good thing that has happened, is that crime in the communities has dropped because people are scared to move around, they are scared of this disease.

Staying at home is not nice. We are used to working. I love my job; being with guests and experiencing different cultures. Now it is so quiet, and it makes me very sad.”

Lorraine Kubayi: Reservations

Tanda Tula - Lorraine for the I Am Tourism Movement

“COVID-19 has affected me badly with my work. My smaller salary means my daughter and I cannot have the same living standards as before. I see all my colleagues sitting at home doing nothing for the past four months. Our government must do something to help people get back to work, we need our borders to open.

My other small, side business is a car wash which has also been affected, not as badly, but things are slow because most people in Hoedspruit work in tourism and they now cannot afford such luxuries as having their cars cleaned. At the beginning of lockdown, when I was home schooling, it was hard. I have never done online education. However, after 2 weeks it got better because Lesego was able to do the work by herself while I was working remotely at home making reservations.

I feel it is harder and different for me as a single working mother. I am relying on one salary only and that makes it difficult. Yet, I am extremely lucky because my daughter is still able to go to a good private IEB school, Southern Cross. She is one of Tanda Tula’s Education Foundation scholarship kids – I am extremely grateful for this.”

Cecilia Chauke: Housekeeper

Tanda Tula - I Am Tourism movement in South Africa

 “My biggest hardship is paying for my kids school fees and also the transport to get them to school. There is not enough money to pay for all the food like we had in the past. I started to build my own house at the end of last year and thought I would be finished this year, but that does not look like it will happen now.

It is difficult at home because so many people are involved with tourism and now they are sitting at home not doing anything. Many communities were promised food parcels by the government but have received nothing…people are hungry.”

We are well aware of the hardships faced by so many women, particularly during these hard times. We know the impact a successful and empowered woman has, not only on her family, but also her entire community. Her strength will influence generations to come and she will stand as a beacon of shining light to all the younger women around her. We will continue to stand together, all 7.5 million South Africans who are supported by the tourism industry, to prevent its total disintegration