Empowering women through ecotourism


How can women play a central role in the growth and development of ecotourism in South Asia? And how can tourism be promoted in an ecologically sensitive manner?

Against the backdrop of these key questions, ICIMOD, through the Himalica Initiative and Gender Strategic Institutional Function (SIF), supported a workshop on ‘Ecotourism for Sustainable Development and Gender Empowerment in South Asia’ held in Thimphu, Bhutan, from 31 August - 1 September 2014. The event was inaugurated by Bhutan’s Minister for Agriculture and Forests Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji.

Leading ecotourism practitioners and gender activists from South Asia shared their experiences and ideas on how to enhance the lives of rural and underprivileged women through community-based ecotourism. They stressed that sustainable development programmes for women in South Asia should integrate ecotourism as a key component. Participants agreed that women empowerment should be given the highest priority to ensure that local communities benefit from and eventually become stakeholders in ecotourism projects. 

The ecotourism workshop was seen as the beginning of a long-term partnership between ICIMOD and its two partners in the event, SWAN and the Tourism Council of Bhutan. It is hoped that they will continue working together to develop ecotourism aimed at empowering women and promoting pro-poor value chains and products in South Asia. 

The workshop participants came with up a set of recommendations for policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building for women. The workshop was organized by South Asian Women's Network (SWAN), New Delhi, Tourism Council of Bhutan, and Tarayana Foundation, Thimphu, Bhutan. ICIMOD was represented by Senior Gender Specialist Dr Chanda Gurung Goodrich at the workshop.