The Long Run leaders pressing for progress this International Women’s Day
The Long Run is fortunate enough to have some of the world’s most passionate and forward-thinking sustainable travel leaders in its ranks. On International Women’s Day 2018, we’d like to celebrate a handful of our female visionaries: the women who are pressing for progress and using tourism as a force for good wherever they are in the world.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #pressforprogress — a call for collective action and shared responsibility in the drive for gender parity. In some parts of the world this means equal pay; in others, it means access to basic sanitary needs and freedom of speech. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” So, whether providing a source of income to local women, training unemployed single mothers, offering free childcare to employees, sending medical support to isolated communities or pushing gender issues within the responsible travel movement, Long Run members are all part of this collective effort.
In each of the women we’d like to celebrate today we’ve identified a quality that is not only vital for the #pressforprogress campaign but worthy of aspiration whatever your goals, nationality or gender. Progress in sustainability often comes from an individual seeking an alternative way of doing business, and these four Long Run leaders have done just that through their resilience, vision, creativity and commitment.
Resilience: Sibylle Riedmiller, Chumbe Island Coral Park
After working as an aid project manager for nearly two decades, Sibylle Riedmiller felt disillusioned by the failure of most aid projects. As a passionate sailor and diver, she was also frustrated by the rampant destruction of coral reefs by dynamite fishing in Tanzania. Firmly believing that the future of the ocean around Tanzania was in the hands of the private sector, Sibylle investigated setting up her own reserve. After failed attempts to lobby and work in conjunction with local authorities, Sibylle struck out on her own — travelling around Zanzibar with local fishers to find a suitable coral reef for her sustainable tourism investment plan. In 1991, she stumbled upon Chumbe Island and started the lengthy process of negotiation with seven Zanzibar government departments. Chumbe Island Coral Park finally opened in 1998, and within seven years it had welcomed over 6400 school children, 1100 teachers and employed numerous local fishers as conservation rangers.
Vision: Suzan Craig, Tahi
When Suzan arrived at a run-down cattle farm in Ohutahi on New Zealand’s South Pacific coast, she had a vision that would have passed by most people. Derelict and destitute, a few old farm buildings stood in disrepair surrounded by a scarred and desolate landscape. In a country that has already lost 95% of its wetlands due to farming, Suzan saw this 800-acre plot where the surf meets estuaries as ripe for regeneration. Over the course of eleven years, Suzan led the planting of 320 000 indigenous trees, restored 14 wetlands and helped support Tahi’s bird population from just 13 to 70, 23 of which are endangered or rare. Everything that Suzan has achieved at Tahi was with sustainability in mind — even implementing responsible pest control, which is a challenge in an area where there are no natural predators. While building a sustainable eco-tourism business, Suzan set up a successful Manuka honey operation, managing over 3000 hives and supplying high-end honey to twenty three countries.
Creativity: Karen Lewis, Lapa Rios
In the 1990s Karen Lewis and her husband left their comfortable lives in Minnesota to make a positive mark on over 1000 acres of rainforest in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Karen’s creative thinking and determination to do something positive, led to the creation of Lapa Rios — an eco-lodge surrounded by one of the world’s most diverse eco-systems and safe-guarded forests. From the outset, Karen wanted Lapa Rios to work for guests and the local community alike. Neither professional nor experienced, locally-based team members had to commit as much as Karen and John did to learning new skills on-the-job and working through problems creatively. Twenty-five years on, it’s that same local team that feel the responsibility to push for progress in conservation, community well-being and cultural preservation.
Commitment: Thais Corral, Sinal do Vale
An old hand when it comes to sustainability and women’s rights, Thais has been advocating that women should be included in the debate around climate change since Rio-92; a topic finally taken seriously on a global scale when the UN declared the importance of gender in climate change discussions in 2014. Thais’ work as an activist, founding the not-for-profit Wedo (Women, Environment and Development Organisation) and establishing a radio network to target hundreds of isolated women in Brazilian communities, came together in the creation of Sinal do Vale in 2012. Just 50km from Rio de Janeiro, Thais transformed part of the Atlantic Rainforest into a living laboratory for sustainability. Firmly believing that women are agents of transformation, and everyone has a part to play, Sinal do Vale welcomes local communities, students, entrepreneurs and world leaders to work through environmental issues together.