Empowering young women on Sumba Island
The theme for today’s International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change. So, let’s all choose to challenge and forge forward for a gender-equal world.
Empowering women is central to The Long Run mission in more ways than one. The hospitality industry is well-placed to provide training, skills and employment opportunities needed to offer women of all ages independence for themselves and their communities. Women also play a critical role in shaping responsible destinations; money earnt by women is often reinvested into education and community infrastructure. Gender equality is a fundamental part of our fight against the climate crisis: 51% of the world is female, and each and every one of these voices are a critical part of our fight against rising carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.
Throughout the 4Cs — Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce — our members strive to empower women. This may be through all-female retreats at Sinal do Vale, an all-female anti-poaching team at Segera, and providing education facilities in the islands surrounding Nikoi Island in Indonesia. One project that we’d like to celebrate today is the work of the Sumba Hospitality Foundation. Here, founder Inge de Lathauwer explains why empowering Sumba’s young women is critical to progress:
The Sumba Hospitality Foundation was founded in 2016 to help underprivileged youths on the remote island of Sumba. We have today 112 young women who already graduated from our program: 90% are in employment.
Life is not easy in Sumba for young people and especially not for young girls. Because of the villages’ remote location, lack of education, awareness, and extreme poverty, girls are an easy target for human trafficking. Agents go to the villages and convince the parents to give them their daughters for a small fee, making fake promises of job opportunities abroad.
Sadly, most end up as slaves or in prostitution. They don’t speak English, receive a fake identity, and passports are taken away with no means of communicating with their families once they have left the country.
In Sumba, animistic beliefs are powerful. Funerals require many buffalo and pig sacrifices for the spirits, which is a very costly tradition for these impoverished communities. When a member of the family dies, and the family cannot afford to pay for the buffalo, often girls from a young age are promised as a way of payment.
The Sumba Hospitality Foundation offers an alternative. Young women receive excellent education and career prospects so that they can choose independence and make their own life choices. This creates a ripple effect throughout the community. Girls often send home monthly payments as part of their salary so that parents see the benefit to let them continue their studies. Many of our graduates return to lead our ‘train the trainer’ course so that they can help other young people take control of their future. This generation isn’t going to back down. Hope for a more equitable future on this island and beyond builds every day.
Here, Sumba Hospitality Foundation (SHF) alumni, Angeline Lamunde, tells us how the foundation has enabled her to choose to challenge.
Angeline was born and raised on Sumba Island. A few years ago, she got the chance to participate in the Sumba Hospitality Foundation’s hospitality training. Before the pandemic hit, she worked in the Front Office Department for Kempinski in Bali but hoped to return to Sumba to help tourism develop on her home island sustainably. Angeline has used the pause in tourism to study tourism at university.
How has the SHF changed your life?
It’s changed my life in many ways. Previously, I was a person who was afraid of dreaming, but now I am a person who dreams big! Before I never thought that I would work in a big hotel, I know that anything can happen because of SHF.
Why do you think it’s essential for local people to be given this opportunity?
1. There are so many local people who are unable to pursue their education to high school.
2. Sumba is a beautiful and unique tourism destination, and it is unfortunate if the community is only a spectator in its own region.
3. So that local people, particularly women, can compete and gain from tourism.
Do you think tourism has a positive or negative impact in your area?
In my opinion, tourism has positive and negative impacts in my area. For example, tourism’s economic impact is usually seen as contributing to employment, better services, and social stability. It can increase available jobs and provide a higher quality of life for locals. It can also improve cultural education.
But tourism can also contribute to the high costs of living in the community, increasing residents’ costs. One of the main threats to our island is that if tourism develops unsustainably, it will have a very negative impact on future generations.
What is your greatest hope for the future?
Firstly, I want to change my family’s economic situation, and I want to help my siblings continue their education to a higher level. Secondly, I hope that Sumba will become a sustainable tourism destination managed by young Sumba people, where the culture and natural beauty will be preserved for the next generation. Lastly, I personally hope to develop sustainable tourism on Sumba as taught by my schooling at SHF.
For more information about the Sumba Hospitality Foundation go to sumbahospitalityfoundation.org