Celebrating Women’s History Month: Our top MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® women-led experiences
Women’s History Month, in March, is an opportunity to celebrate inspiring women, both in our lives and around the globe. We work with so many brilliant women at Contiki, and our Contiki Cares initiatives have introduced us to many more all over the world.
Learn more about some of our favourite women-led experiences as we celebrate both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month this March.
Contiki Cares is our commitment to protecting the communities we visit, the wildlife we interact with, and the planet we all share. We build in sustainable travel experiences to our trips across the world and we’re proud that so many of the initiatives we support are led by such strong, exceptional women.
“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.” – Charles Malik
1) Dhonk Centre – India
Community is key, and Dhonk founder Divya Khandal has created a beautiful opportunity for growth and change in her home of Ranthambhore, India. Dhonk was created to provide alternative job opportunities in Ranthambore and to discourage participation in the region’s tiger poaching crisis. Working to reform this poaching pattern, Divya has created a place where the women at Dhonk can ethically provide for their families by creating handcrafted apparel and home products, while honouring Indian craftsmanship and design.
Through Dhonk, Divya has been able to successfully empower both men and women in her community, creating a network of micro-entrepreneurs and changemakers. Dhonk now provides even more for Ranthambore, including education, financing, counseling, skills training, and healthcare loans that were not easily accessible beforehand.
Thanks to Dhonk’s focus on education for girls and employment for women, Ranthambore is destined to create many more community leaders to follow in Divya Khandal’s footsteps for generations to come.
Visit Dhonk on Eternal India.
2) Real Country – New Zealand
Southland native Laura Douglas started Real Country in 2016, in an effort to share the real New Zealand with her visitors. After growing up on a sheep farm, Laura spent years in the corporate world before returning to her farming roots. She focused on taking women hunting before turning Real Country into a legitimate and thriving farm full of animals and rugged experiences.
Real Country offers a workshop for young girls that’s structured like a finishing school – and it’s unlike any finishing school you’ll ever see. Laura focuses on instilling confidence and independence in young girls, providing them with practical skills that they’ll have in their arsenal for life. This includes teaching them skills in hunting, farming, basic construction, changing tires, and jumpstarting vehicles.
Laura now offers interactive tours at Real Country and teaches some of these skills to the public, along with running workshops for young women.
Visit Real Country on The Big Tiki.
Image source:Time of My Life
3) Ock Pop Tok – Laos
Combining great minds and cultures can be one of the best recipes for success and innovation. This is evident in the work done by the women of Ock Pop Tok. Meaning “East Meets West” in Lao, Ock Pop Tok was created by Joanna Smith and Veomanee Douangdala, of English and Laotian origin respectively. These two inspiring women have worked together to create one of the top textile and artisanal organizations in South East Asia.
The company was founded in 2000 when the two women bonded over a love of traditional and innovative textiles, and weaving methods. They’ve grown their business from a small shop in Luang Prabang to a successful business, focused on providing a sustainable livelihood for local weavers – a job traditionally reserved for women.
Ock Pop Tok champions competitive wages, professional development, and opportunities for learning. It now employs over 90 people with a senior staff team of women.
Visit Ock Pop Tok on Asian Adventure.
4) Katarina Lines – Croatia
Katica Hauptfeld began her work in the travel industry as a travel agent before starting Katarina Line in 1992, the main supplier for Contiki’s Croatia Sailing trips. Katica has continued to grow Katarina Line into the thriving enterprise it is today, working with local suppliers and bringing her children on board to her family-run business. As the owner and founder of Katarina Line, she’s creating the blueprint for successful women entrepreneurs in the Balkan region of Europe.
Katarina Line now has over 60 ships in its fleet in 6 different categories, with over 165,000 people a year enjoying their cruises.
Sail with Katarina Line on Croatia Island Sail Plus.
Image source:Slobodna Dalmacija
5) Amal Women’s Cooperative – Morocco
Nora Fitzgerald Belahcen founded the Amal Women’s Cooperative in Marrakech in 2012, initially as a small haven for local women to master culinary arts. She now has two training centers and accepts 60 women per year into her program, a non-profit that’s dedicated to the empowerment of Moroccan women through culinary training and job placement. Nora has put all her focus into improving her community and created Amal as a free-of-charge program, which even covers student living expenses.
Amal’s students are all young Moroccan women of low income, who are determined to better their situation. The training at Amal sets these women up for success in the culinary field, allowing them to be financially independent. Amal offers cooking classes to visitors and provides daily service at their restaurant as well.
Visit the Amal Women’s Cooperative on Moroccan Adventure.
Image source:Morocco World News
6) Flourish – USA
Food insecurity affects many communities throughout the USA, and fresh food can still be difficult to afford.
Founder and high school student Siena Mills created Flourish to combine her passion for both people and the environment. As a young entrepreneur from Los Angeles, California, Siena saw community gardens as a great way to support her local community, individually and collectively. Flourish is a family-run organization, focused on community empowerment, equality, and resilience through providing much-needed access to fresh, affordable, healthy food.
“Food is fuel, and if you are putting bad fuel in your tank, how can your body run properly? Healthy foods give you freedom – to think clearly, have more energy, and pursue your dreams”
Siena and her team are working towards creating even more community gardens and introducing healthy eating habits across the USA, one community at a time.
Visit Flourish on Best of USA.
7) Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco – Peru
Founded by Nilda Callanuapa in 1996, the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) is a traditional weaving centre in Cusco, Peru. It’s been pivotal in its preservation of Peruvian culture, offering employment to local men and women to maintain the importance of this 10,000-year-old practice.
Nilda was determined to maintain her own cultural heritage while also finding employment opportunities for the locals. Now, CTTC is women managed, operated, and founded, and its focus is on keeping indigenous traditions alive by teaching the younger generations how to weave. CTTC also provides a place where local weavers can sell their crafts, creating revenue streams for the community.
Visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco on Peru Uncovered.
8) La Sorgente – Italy
In Italy, food and family are so closely linked, and in the region of Sorrento, farming is such an essential part of this process. Maintaining culinary culture is paramount at Arriturismo La Sorgente, a special family farm where two women are feeding the hearts and mouths of their visitors.
La Sorgente is what Italian foodie dreams are made of: a mozzarella farm on a four-acre lemon grove in the hills of Sorrento. The farm has been a family business for three generations, and Rosa and Maria have been responsible for transforming this family gem into a communal educational, culinary and cultural experience.
The Marciano family is responsible for making some of the best limoncello in all of Italy. They also produce olive oil and wine, provide delicious farm-to-table meals for travellers, and grow delicious grapes, oranges, and figs. They then utilize their own cows’ milk for their exceptional, creamy mozzarella.
Rosa and Maria touch the heart of everyone who visits the farm and continue to teach travellers about the importance of organic foods, local dining and family farming in the Italian economy.
Visit La Sorgente on European Quest.
9) Yaly Couture – Vietnam
Vietnam is filled with must-dos, but the city of Hội An, in particular, provides a unique shopping experience you can’t miss. Hội An has become known for its superb and affordable custom tailoring services, and much of this is women-led. One shop in particular – Yaly Couture – has become synonymous with quality, and its founder is a talented woman entrepreneur named Trinh Diem Quynh.
Trinh Diem Quynh started her business in 1995 with a small market stall and has grown it into a tailoring empire in Hội An. Yaly now has three shops in Hội An with over 300 tailors on staff. They’re the go-to spot for craftsmanship, training, and customer service.
From ball gowns and suits to tank tops and sundresses, there is no custom tailoring task that Trinh and her team can’t handle. You can visit Yaly during your travels or shop online by sending your measurements in. Yaly has also become one of the biggest tailor innovators in Hội An, with their introduction of 3D full-body scanners, and Trinh Diem Quynh continues her mission to innovate and empower women creatives in Vietnam.
Visit Yaly Couture on Vietnam Experience.
Image source:Culture Trip
10) The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-operative – Jordan
In Jordan, female unemployment is high, and organizations such as The Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative aim to provide opportunities to combat employment disparity.
Iraq Al-Amir was founded in 1993 by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation; a non-profit founded by Queen Noor of Jordan. Its aim is to teach and equip Jordanian women with new skills, business opportunities, and greater financial independence.
Iraq Al-Amir is not only managed and run by local women, but has provided handicraft training for more than 150 women from local villages. These handicrafts are sold in the gift shop and online, to both provide income and help to preserve local heritage. This ripple effect of women helping women has begun to change the lives of many families and single women in Jordan.
Visit the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-operative on Israel and Jordan Uncovered.
11) Uncle Nearest – USA
As a writer, Fawn Weaver set out to learn more about the story of Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green, in the hope to create a film around his largely unknown involvement in the creation of the American whiskey brand, Jack Daniel’s. Little did she know that her efforts to uncover the story would lead her to start an unexpected business of her own.
Nearest Green was a slave who worked on the property of distiller Dan Call, along with Jack Daniel. Through her research, Weaver learned that Nearest Green was actually the master distiller at Jack Daniel’s. This revelation and a series of serendipitous events lead Fawn to create Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey – to both honour a legacy and create its own.
Thanks to Fawn and her team, Uncle Nearest launched in 2017 in Tennessee and is now the fastest‐growing independent premium whiskey brand in American history. Weaver’s successful team is comprised of women exclusively, including members of Nearest Green’s own family. Uncle Nearest also has an all-minority executive board. Weaver herself is the first African-American to lead a major spirit brand.
Visit Uncle Nearest on Southern Stars.
12) Heart Parcels – New Zealand
One young woman who’s joined the fight to tackle homelessness in Wellington, New Zealand, is Parris Quinn who’s created non-profit company, Heart Parcels.
Parris felt passionate about doing more for the local homeless community from a young age, and in 2016 she made it her mission to make a change. Heart Parcels provides hot, delicious meals to those most in need every week, and sells brownies alongside to help cover food costs. Parris also receives donations from the community which has helped to build her business and expand its offering.
“I think it is important for people who have ended up on the street to have a second chance. Meals are not always attainable or guaranteed but if I can make a difference one plate at a time, then I am committed to making that change”
Along with food, Parris and the team provide necessities like clothing and toiletries, gifted from locals. Her aim is to expand Heart Parcels and support cities all over New Zealand and globally.
Visit Heart Parcels on Kiwiana Panorama.
Image source:Scoop NZ
13) Knysna Township Tour – South Africa
Ella has lived in the Knysna Township in South Africa most of her life where she now runs local cultural and historical tours.
The Township has a heavy atmosphere of community and just by looking around it’s clear how much each citizen helps each other out. No one is left behind, and everyone, no matter where you are from, is greeted kindly with a warm “Molong!“
Ella runs the guided tours of the Township, but she is also an essential part of the community, working with local children in need and acting as their support system as she works to give them better futures away from the dysfunctional backgrounds they may come from. This is precisely the reason Ella came to Knysna in the first place, to make a life for herself away from home, and now she returns the favour the Township has given her.
“The community here is important and there’s a great sense of it. People will take care of you if you have nothing, and they will encourage and support you.”
Visit Knysna on Cape Safari & Falls.