|Synopsis of research
Ecotourism could be a valuable tool to promote women’s empowerment, with its attention to social justice and encouragement of participation and empowerment of local people, including women. However, little attention is currently devoted to women’s participation in ecotourism. This is particularly true in places such as Quintana Roo, Mexico, where the tourism industry is the main economic activity in the area. The purpose of my research is to understand the processes through which ecotourism empowers or disempowers women. My research is a comparative case study of two ecotourism projects in Quintana Roo, Mexico. One is formed exclusively by women “Orquideas de Sian Ka’an”, and the other has both male and female participation “Community Tours Sian Ka’an”. I conducted four months of ethnographic fieldwork doing 70 semi-structured interviews, direct observations, and document review. My findings indicate that women have distinct, gender-based family demands that prevent their ability to work and actively participate in the ecotourism projects. Women have a lot of pressure from their families and the community to be mainly wives and mothers. When men and women are part of the project, women’s participation usually mirrors the domestic job that they do in their households, they are cooks, maids, and secretaries. The ecotourism projects does not positive contribute to their empowerment, on the contrary, add more demands to their shoulders and disempower them. International organizations, such as the UN, governments, and NGO’s that promote women’s empowerment through projects such as ecotourism cooperatives need to look at the gender dynamics that prevent women’s empowerment. The gender dynamics that occur inside the projects and outside at their families and communities can make the difference between a successful project that empowers women and one that eventually will fail or continue promoting gender disparities.
The first time I arrived to the community where one of the ecotourism projects is located I got a ride from the guy who sells tortillas and other groceries in town (the tortillero) because there is not public transportation in town. So, I arrived to the community in a truck full of tortillas, fruits, vegetables, dog and cat food, medicines, etc. It was fun though…