Instituted for the protection, upliftment, and with a long-term mission to create synergy between rural and urban women to work in conjunction – TAAI touched upon several sensitive issues experienced by women at WITT 2022.
In its second edition of Women In TAAI and Tourism, the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) chanted the mantra of involving and empowering women to become proactive, self-dependent, and commanding in every facet of their lives. Bettiah Lokesh, Secretary-General of TAAI, in his welcome address, enunciated a three-step process to aid women empowerment in tourism – promote women in entrepreneurship, encourage their participation, and generate accurate evidence-based gender policies.
The second woman president in 75 years of TAAI’s inception, Jyoti Mayal, highlighted the dearth of women leaders in the tourism and hospitality industry. Quoting a study by World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Mayal shared the female share of employment in the tourism industry to be only 12.1%, and their earnings to be 14.7% less than their male counterparts. She underlined the need for coexistence and interdependency between men and women to actively work and ensure a level playing field for both sexes.
G Kamala Vardhana Rao, Director General, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, shared some gripping stories from ancient Indian texts touching upon the suffering women have had to face across millennia. Rao urged everyone to uptake responsibility and stem the conspicuous injustice against women. He reminded the audience of how India is the only country to address its nation as ‘Mother India’. Underlining the need for education as a catalyst to eradicate discrimination against women, Rao spoke highly of PM Modi’s initiative – Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. “This is not an ordinary slogan, it is a very big slogan that society has to take very seriously going forward” he added. He explained further the steps being taken by the government for the skill development of women, “We are coming up with a new tourism policy in which we have a chapter on skill development through our ministries.”
Commencing the panel discussion, Mayal vouched for the importance of ‘Weaving Tales’ in tourism, “You have to be a storyteller to sell any dream, and that is what we as travel agents need to deliver.” Rupinder Brar, ADG Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, encouraged women to become independent and lead the movement to bring a paradigm shift. “It’s not always that you need to wait for a man to open the door for you to walk into a room. Why would you not open the door yourself as a woman?” Brar asked rhetorically.
The session also addressed the problems of women residing in rural areas. Cultural Activist Navina Jafa highlighted how women in rural areas are unable to express their stories being confined to their homes, “The women in their ecologies inside their homes – one of the biggest factors is the lack of content and communication.” She insisted on helping rural women develop a sense of expression and embracing womanhood.
Talking about the joint initiative with the Ministry of Minority Affairs of India, Brar underscored the 500 Vishwakarma villages overflowing with skilled artisans. These villages have been identified by the government for promoting rural craftsmanship, capacity building, and women empowerment.
Praveen Kumar, Former Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), shared the introduction of flexible training models for lower-middle-class women who manage household activities and may not have enough time to learn new skills. Kumar exclaimed the importance of inculcating a sense of security within. He said, “Gender sensitization committee has a proactive role and gives confidence to women that they have someone to go to immediately in case of any problems.”
The second panel discussion, ‘Creating Your Sunshine’ hovered around skilling and encouraging women to take leadership roles. “I feel we women hold ourselves back,” said Nandita Kanchan, Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi. Talking about women’s general mindset of ‘family first’ and turning down important roles and opportunities, Kanchan added “You have to seize every opportunity that comes your way. Women generally think in terms of family first and as mothers we consider ourselves more responsible than the fathers”. As important as talent is to a woman’s success, it’s equally important to nurture the talent. Sonia Bharwani, GM – Learning & OD, VFS Global, shared her desire to do away with the one shoe fit all approach. “In today’s world everyone is differently talented and has their innate abilities, therefore, education has to move away from the cookie-cutter approach and look at nurturing the talent by relooking at the system of education.”
Speaking to TravelBiz Monitor about WITT and her long-term vision for women in rural and urban areas working in conjunction, Mayal said, “We need to come up with creative concepts such as maybe a TAAI hawker street or TAAI crafts in all the cities we get the opportunity to and where we can work together with Incredible India to say how different avenues can be created in tourism going further. It’s not only about working in offices, but it is about working beyond offices.”
When asked to talk about the core idea behind the inception of Women In TAAI and Tourism, Jay Bhatia, Vice President, TAAI said, “WITT came into existence as we wanted empowerment for rural and urban women force especially in tourism, and we have a lot of women in the field today who are our members, who are not coming out into the focus and limelight.” Discussing the idea to empower women not limited only to the members of TAAI, he added “Our first initiation was with FICCI FLO, and with the Government of India. We signed an MOU to take things forward, and to do various activities not only for our members but for women at large, for lower strata, to skill them train them, and take things forward to and to develop our industry.” Nudging women to come out of their guilt he said, “Women should not just think about their families, they should come out and think about their perceptions to take things forward for their future.”