How women are denied opportunities in Zanzibar's hospitality industry – IPPmedia

REGARDLESS of its vibrant growth with creation of decent job opportunities in Zanzibar Island, women shy away from opportunities in the hospitality industry due to negative attitudes by the local community leading to gender inequality in the industry, The Guardian investigation has revealed.
Mustafa Hassan Makame, a labour officer from the Employment Department at the President’s Office (Labour, Economic Affairs and Investment)  in Zanzibar during an interview in his office recently.
Sources said a negative attitude rooted in gender inequality among Zanzibaris considers women working in the hospitality industry as prostitutes hence forcing them to refrain from joining the isles leading foreign currency earning industry.
In addition, Zanzibar women shy away from jobs in the industry due to religious and ethnic restrictions related to dress code with those associated with tourism and hospitality being considered as not being decent. As a result, the majority of women working in the industry are from the Mainland.
One of the people interviewed, Asha Kombo Mohammed (26) admitted that young women in the Spice Islands are often treated negatively by their families and relatives once they join the hospitality industry.
Being one of the beneficiaries of International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Apprenticeship Skills Development Programme, Kombo said she managed to overcome the negative perception from the community and is currently working at Park Hyatt Zanzibar, a five star facility in Zanzibar.
She said after graduating from the ILO program, she proceeded to the prestigious hotel’s communication department as an operator. Kombo who graduated as a front office (reception) operator in 2018, went on and pursued a diploma in hospitality and tourism management in 2019/20 and has ambitions to pursue a degree course in the same field.
“Being a prostitute is one’s personal habit and one can get into even without working in the hospitality industry. I respect myself and have been enjoying my profession. The community must understand that hospitality is a decent industry for both women and men across the world and we must equally share all emerging opportunities in the industry,” she said.
Kombo pointed out that the apprenticeship programme in hospitality also provided girls to be courageous and explore opportunities available especially those who are jobless.” Even self-employed people have the opportunity to train and work in the island’s thriving hospitality industry,” she noted.
Responding to issues raised by Kombo, a Labour Officer from the Employment Department in the President’s Office in Zanzibar, Mustafa Hassan Makame admitted that inequality to women in the hospitality industry is of many years but initiatives to sensitize the public have started yielding fruits.
Makame said his office has been organizing regular workshops and seminars involving youth and non-governmental organizations to encourage women to join Zanzibar’s hospitality industry. He said his office has been collaborating with ILO since 2017 in offering sponsored skills development courses to youth through its apprenticeship programme.
“The number of youth joining the programme has been growing as days pass by. A few women join the programme but as I said, sensitizing the public is an ongoing process. We hope for the best to change the public’s perception as we continue with the campaign,” he noted.
According to him, in last year’s programme, a total of 105 youth were involved of which 71 were male and 34 were women. He said the programme also covered youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) where 97 of them were involved of which women were only 23.
“The revolutionary government through its 2021/22 budget has allocated 530m/- to finance an apprenticeship programme to train youth with diplomas in hotel management courses and targets to involve at least 450 both male and female young people,” he added.
Backing Makame’s observation, ILO Apprenticeship Skills Development Programme Coordinator Zanzibar, Khafidh Khamis said that in 2017/18, there were 34 male and 18 female who graduated while in 2019/20 the number increased to 71 including 35 female. “We are working closely with the government in sensitizing the general public so that people change their negative attitude toward women working in the hospitality industry,’ Khamis said.
Acting Director at Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI), Adil George said that while the community considers jobs in the hospitality industry indecent for women, some changes are happening, albeit slowly.
“The other challenge is considering hospitality as the last option after one has failed to succeed in other professions of their dream. The industry is facing a shortage of local hotel managers because the education system still doesn’t offer degrees for the profession,” George said.
George’s argument is backed by Campus Manager of National College of Tourism Arusha, Dr Maswet Masinda who admitted that there is no college or university that offers hotel management degree level courses but said the college is expecting to enrol students in the next academic year.
“We had planned to start the hotel management degree programme this academic year but didn’t make it because of registration processes that are not yet completed. We are hoping to do so in the next academic year,” Masinda said.
Commenting on what is exactly happening on the ground, Lisenka Beetson who is Emerson on Hurumzi Hotel Manager in Stone Town, said that at the hotel women make about 15 percent of all employees. “They mostly work in housekeeping, kitchen and reception departments,” Beetson said, adding that chances for women in the hospitality industry exist and there are several role models from the apprenticeship programme.
“Sharing their success stories can help the community understand that work in tourism can offer decent careers for women working at different levels within the industry,” Beetson noted.  Beetson’s views were also backed by Eleonora Mallya, Human Resource Manager at Doubletree Hotel Stone Town, who said that the community must understand that hospitality is a profession and not like working in street bars.
“At the hotel there are only three female workers out of about 70 employees. The gender gap is huge compared to the mainland’s industry where the majority of women tap the opportunities,”  Mallya said.
In a study dubbed ‘Effects of workplace bullying and emotional exhaustion in Zanzibar’s hospitality industry’ for 2021, Dr Hamad Said who is a Lecturer from School of Business at the State University of Zanzibar, stated that bullying of women has been declining in recent days.
“Data shows that bullying acts like employees being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with their work had not been much reported by employees as 60.6 percent of employees said they had never experienced any of such incidents,” Dr Said said.
In case of being the target of practical jokes carried out by people they do not get along with, also, this case was not much reported by employees as a total of 52.8 percent said they had never come across such humiliation,” he said.
A World Bank report in 2019, stated that tourism is a critical source of Zanzibar’s foreign exchange contributing 28 percent to gross domestic product and 82 percent in foreign currency earnings. The industry is also one of the leading employers.
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