"Cultural Chick Flick"

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Envia Tour

Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whilst in Oaxaca, Manuela and I engaged in a touch of "sustainable tourism". The concept intrigued us and we were eager to hand our cash over to the little guy. Or rather in this case, little woman! 

This is basically how it works: Tourists visit small businesswomen (no pun intended!) in the village of Teotitlan. They get to see what they make, how they make it, ask them questions, and if you want, buy or eat their wares. 100% of the money we pay for the tour goes towards interest-free microloans. Elsewhere they face rates of up to 70% creating a huge barrier to entry. This small investment helps to start or expand their businesses and according to one woman: "hope for a better life".

We felt privileged to visit the homes of three businesswomen and peek into their lives: 
* Teresa and her daughters who make and sell tamales and tortillas at the local market; 
* Three generations of Bazan women who outlived the men in their family. They sustain themselves and their children by spinning, dying and weaving textiles into carpets that they sell in their store (see pics). The 22 year old granddaughter also makes jewellery to help fund her studies;
* An emotional Sandra who runs a "tienda" (corner shop or if you're from Cape Town, a Babi shop). She shed a few tears while sharing her story. A couple of tourists followed suit.

One review by a male on a previous trip referred to the tour as a "Cultural Chick Flick". Yes, all the business owners are women. Yes, all the tourists in this group were female. And yes, the tour guide today was female. And yes, there was "snot en trane" (snot and tears). Nevertheless males would greatly benefit from getting involved.

Envia's reasons for only investing in women is they are more likely to invest the money in their business and ultimately benefit their family. Men were believed more likely to drink or gamble the money away. It was particularly rewarding to see how the older women continue to play an active role. 
If you want to know more check out www.envia.org. 

I couldn't help wonder how this concept could work in South Africa? What cultural and contextual differences would need to be considered? Your thoughts are most welcome!
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