Arzu Kutucu Ozenen
Chairperson of Board
Yesil Valiz Association for Responsible Tourism.
STARTING FROM THE MEMORIES AND ASKING FOR FUNDS
Nilufer Municipality, which is known for its gender-sensitive activities, supported the idea of empowering rural women and assigned two historical houses to this cause. Misi Village had a women's association of 46 women, many of them working in the fields. None of them had social security; only 3 of them owned the fields they worked in. Needless to say, the fields belonged to their husbands. Because of the conservative social structure, women were not free to go and work in the city. All of them were unhappy about the tourist tour buses which were coming and stopping for the beautiful view and leaving nothing but rubbish and bad memories behind. They only had one good and meaningful tourism experience when Uludag University Faculty of Architecture brought Japanese Erasmus students to the village and made them stay with the families in their homes as pensioners for two days. They saw their village through the students' eyes all over again and were ready to feel proud again. We used this good memory as an anchor.
We encouraged women to open one room of their houses for paying guests. We worked with the lifelong training centre for training women about hospitality services. Women started to earn money, get social security numbers and 2 of them opened full houses as boutique hotels. There were more to Misi than natural beauties; it was one of the villages which were famous for sericulture activities in the region. Although the activities came to an end when cheap Chinese silk dominated the market, there were older women who still had the ancient know-how.
The activities needed for resurrecting a traditional craft, the research and the machinery costs were above our budgets so we looked for a suitable fund and applied to a programme called "Future Lies in Tourism Support Fund" which is organized by the cooperation of Anadolu Efes, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the UNDP. Our project '%100 Misia' was successful. With the fund we opened one of the traditional houses as a workshop and living museum for sericulture and silk manufacturing. With the same fund, we opened another historical house as a traditional Bursa restaurant. We even found long forgotten traditional recipes and started to serve them. Misi won back its glory and started to accept tourist groups which respect its cultural and natural assets. So far tourism's contribution to gender equality, heritage preservation, and poverty eradication was clear; tourism enabled us to provide 46 women of Nilufer Misi Village Women Cultural and Beneficiary Association with employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. It also helped us to preserve the historical houses for the future generations.
After our project was funded and the results were beginning to show, there were a lot of demands from the other village women associations. We decided to establish an association to lead the way for those, especially village women, who want to come together to start responsible tourism in their villages. As an association promoting tourism ethics in Bursa, Yesil Valiz (Green Valise) Association for Responsible Tourism embraces and aims to spread the principles declared by Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism. Realizing the depth of the subject, I applied for the MSc in Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University.
RURAL WOMEN; THE PERFECT CANDIDATES TO PROTECT NATURAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Turkey is a unique destination for tourism. Great civilizations such as Hitite, Urartu, Galatians, Lycians, Lydians, Ionians, Greeks, Romans, Seljuks and Ottomans have lived in this land. It ıs amongst the world's seven leading countries in terms of natural health resources and geothermal potential. You may see a great potential; as well as a great risk of exploiting the assets, both cultural and natural. The reason I was deeply impressed by the term 'Responsible Tourism' was my belief that there are a lot more to maintain the future of a destination than mere environmental preservation. I strongly believe in creating a beneficiary cluster for the natives to convince them to protect what is their own. And this comes with the job opportunities, local value chain management and as a result of these; local community development. Providing jobs, developing skills are the first steps to an equal future; the day women stand up for more and advocate for themselves is the day we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This made us take another step. Rural women were the best candidates to defend their village's assets.
More than half of the women we worked with could go to school until the end of the primary education; although they were invited to the government meetings to make a 'good governance show', they were unable to express themselves and propose solutions or even define their local problems efficiently. We had to increase rural women's informed and active participation in the decision-making processes for socio-economic development plans of their territory. With that purpose in mind, we wrote another project 'Köy Kadından Sorulur', which means something like 'You should ask the village to the women'-of course it sounds much more meaningful in Turkish language.
With this project, 9 Villages will be analysed and documented about their cultural and natural advantages with the help of local woman guides. 174 women from 9 villages (Misi, Golyazi, Urunlu, Gorukle, Dagyenice, Atlas, Ayvakoy, Çatalağal, Konaklı) will decide on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (smart analysis) of their village. 174 women will prepare a problem/solution tree for their village. 66 women (representatives of 174 women, chosen by them) will learn about citizenship rights and responsibilities, democracy criteria, transparency criteria, efficiency criteria, budget literacy, literacy for development projects, appeal methods, participation methods, campaigning, social media, meeting etiquette, brain storming methods, organizational behaviour, volunteer management, strategic planning, logical frame approach, stakeholder analysis. The lessons will be supported with creative drama sessions and board games which will make the subjects more understandable. 66 women will have a strategic planning workshop of two days under the supervision of consultants from Manchester Metropolitan University.
The territorial strategic plan proposition draft will be hanged in the villages for all the women to see and comment on it. The territorial strategic plan proposition will be presented to Mayor of Nilufer Municipality, Mustafa Bozbey. This project will support and develop processes that enable rural women to engage with the elected political representatives, have a saying in the budgets and development plans about their territories. In the long term, beneficial women will be confident contributors to inclusive democracy. We will be starting the activities in September 2015.
INTEGRATING GENDER INTO TOURISM VALUE CHAINS
Another project called 'Köydeki Evim' (My Country Home) has been funded and will start in January 2016. We aim to educate 60 villagers about value chains, entrepreneurship, tourism clusters and micro finance the participators to create value chains with the least possible leakages. There will be B&B management, handcrafts production, organic farming, traditional building and furniture making and marketing trainings as well as micro finance opportunities for the whole value chain in the villages. For this project, we do not focus only on women. We want women to be an indispensable part of the whole value chain; we aim to educate both men and women side by side and facilitate the effective integration of women into the rural tourism value chain.The businesses which will be started with this project shall be advertised on the web site www.koydekievim.com (not available until 2016)
INTEGRATING GENDER INTO SUPPLY CHAINS OF URBAN HOTELS AND RESTAURANTS
After 'Köydeki Evim' is finished, we plan to prepare another project which will enable the urban hotels to integrate gender into their supply chains. Although the project has not been totally formed, the Municipality is sure to be our partner in the project. We will try to establish a platform which will transform the urban hotels' and restaurants' supply chains, train the local woman suppliers to meet the hotels' and restaurants' requirements, advertise the project thus the participators which supply from local woman producers. This will be a win-win situation for all stakeholders and hopefully lead to strong co-ops among rural women. Considering the vulnerable nature of small tourism businesses, this involvement in the big hotels' and restaurants' supply chains will increase the resilience of rural communities and make them less dependent on rural tourism. This project will also help to prevent local communities from neglecting farming practises in favour of tourism activities.