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Achieving women often hit the proverbial “glass ceiling.” Until recently in Peru, mountains stood in the way of women.
The pioneer of women-only travel, Wild Women Expeditions, is helping women in Peru ride a wave of change. Peruvian women can now serve as porters as well as play a leading role as guides on mountain treks on the Inca Trail.
Jennifer Haddow, owner and guiding director, says that her company’s itineraries in Peru that are guided by women will now be supported by female porters as well as led by all women guides.
“It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it, that at one point on the Inca Trail is a pass called Dead Woman’s Pass, where it was believed women could not survive. But now they are breaking barriers in their mountains and taking up their place as leaders in adventure travel,” Haddow explains.
Peru is one of many places where women lack opportunity in the growing tourism industry. Breaking the barriers of misogyny and the label of “the weaker sex” impacts the lives of the women who are entering this arena but also impacts their communities who will begin to view a new-found, female economic power these women bring to the table.
“It isn’t easy for women to find work on the Inca Trail as guides or porters. Our approach is to recognize the strength and talents of Peruvian women to forge their own future; we walk in solidarity with them. We hope that there will be more opportunities for women to benefit from tourism on the Inca Trail. We are committed to bringing travelers to Peru who want to see women empowered and who respect local culture,” she says.
“In many countries we work in, women are challenged to break into the tourism industry and find leadership opportunities. Traditional community roles and family responsibilities often mean that women are unable to find work as guides. Creating leadership and employment opportunities for women is at the heart of our mission to make tourism kinder for women. All of our Wild Women tours are led by local women guides, which is core to our commitment to ensure that tourism works for women.”
“Women’s leadership in adventure travel matters,” Haddow underscores. “By hiring women, we create a new foundation for hiring practices within Peru’s growing tourism sector. Women who can support themselves and their families financially are empowered in their communities. In order to create a demand for female guides and porters, it’s up to travelers to seek out socially conscious companies.”
The new porters share Haddow’s enthusiasm. “I’m excited about being a porter because I’ve spent years not earning money and spending all my time cooking at home. I’m proud to be able to provide financially. I have kids that are studying in school and need to help with their school supplies,” said Luciana.
Marlene said: I’m from Huilloc and am working as a porter for the experience of doing the Inca Trail. Many of my girlfriends want to work as porters. Financially, I will be better off to buy food and clothes.”
A Wild Women Expeditions’ tour in Peru supported by female porters is the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu.
This video shows the local women and their guests on the trails.
Wild Women Expeditions pioneered women-only adventure travel three decades ago. Today it offers more international itineraries than any of its competitors in the women-only sector.
But to Haddow, more important than the size of her company is its on-going, two-fold mission wrapped around the word kind: to support climate justice and to support women to take their place as leaders in the world of outdoor adventure travel. (See more about that here.)
“Our company is about the heart. We want to change how women perceive leadership and empowerment, to value connection and compassion more than the competition. Women are rising in the adventure travel industry and approaching each other and our environment with kindness. This is the key,” she adds.
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