Chi: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board Responsible Tourism MIssion
A unique project based on rural communities and women
In the heart of India there are fortresses, tigers, forests, lakes, temples, but now there are also charming places of art and culture, villages, markets and roads, waiting for female travellers, with the promise of not being bothered.
Women, the local community, rural villages, are the protagonists of the most new and interesting projects that are worth a trip to India. For example, women are central in the "safe streets" project, born in order to clean the streets from the dangerous disturbers once and for all, after so many reports of violence that were holding back tourism in India.
This one and many more innovative ideas are part of the projects fulfilled by the Tourism Board of Madhya Pradesh, India's second largest state by area, with its 72 million residents, home to the largest number of tribal populations and many of the six hundred thousand villages scattered across the continent. Certainly the highly efficient team of 110 specialists working for the Responsible Tourism Mission in Madya Pradesh (RTMMP), has succeeded in engaging the community in a new way of rural tourism, with sharing, capacity building, training, entrepreneurship, empowerment, environmental protection (for more see our Dossier).
The result is a network of dozens of structures, from private rooms to historical resorts, fifty tour operators, seventy-six guides, in six cultural zones, forty-one must-see places, along twenty-three itineraries for all tastes, plus a fantastic catalogue of more than one hundred and eighty great artisans and unique experiences, in the villages of Khokara, Ladpura Khas, Madla, Thadipathar. Aiming to involve 300 villages, 11250 women and 50 destinations in the coming year.
What do the women do and why visit them?
If you are planning a trip here, then you will meet those who have become guides, in five nature parks -Kanha, Panna, Pench, Bandhawagarh, Sanjay Dubri-, where they used to live with their tribes before the parks were turned into Reserves. The programme, founded together with the NGO Gram Sudhar Samiti, is perfect for tourists who like to enjoy the local way of life, including village visits, nature walks, boat trips, storytelling.
The 'Safe tourism destinations for women' initiative is one of the core projects and it is hoped that it will become a model for many: providing a safe and secure environment tailored to women in tourism destinations; increasing women's confidence to visit destinations without any fear for their safety; creating spaces suitable for them, job opportunities and self-employment.
To the delight of women travellers, who will meet women shopkeepers, guides, naturalists, artists, taxi drivers, guides in the forest or decorating village homes with traditional paintings. And much more.
Some of our favorites?
- The rural home stays, a replicated model in which no family has more than two guest rooms, which gives women a leadership position, because they decide how to organize tourist visits, including gardening, tours, birdwatching, stories, cooking and walking.
- A family style breakfast overlooking the bend of the majestic Betwa River, at the well-kept and refined Chandera Kothy Homestay (+91 98206 27469), just outside Orchha.
- The amazing essay of ancient Indian gymnastics Malkhamb, held by very young athletes in Madla, with adjoining tasting of bafauri, maheri, kauri and other delicacies, in plates of woven leaves
- The 200 women farmers of the Haritika Jhansi Ngo, who offer pottery, birdwatching, bike rides on the Betwa River, happy with the 1500 customers who came during the safari season (some just for the renowned cuisine).
- The Rekha and Kamla Homestay, in the idyllic remote village of Ladpura Khas (Radhapur, Orchha), where women welcome with Bundelkhand songs, to the rhythm of tabla, for the most exquisite lunch based on local vegetables, including children’s games and a game of gilli-danda ( +91 6392071364, email@example.com).
- The great work done by the Taj Hotel in Bhopal, one of the top resorts mostly committed to supporting traditions and culture, empowering local women and the community through enabling and providing jobs in their unit.
- The rich dining experiences under mango trees and bougainvilles at the Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal, the white colonial hotel with galleries of historical photos of maharajas and romantic terraces among the frangipani, to go back two hundred years.
Advices from those who know
- In Madla and Dhamma, you must not miss the souvenir training centre Pashoo Pakshee, as blogger Lakshimy Sharath suggests in her newsletter: <<While planning your itinerary, also make a list of social entrepreneurs. First of all Savini Sonavaria who runs PashooPakshee, workshops in Madla, Khana, Panna, Chattarpur and Khamreeth Silai Centre in the Pench Tiger Reserve. You participate in the life of the artisans or shop for T-shirts, pottery, earrings, bags, directly at any MPT hotel, where you can interact with the artisans>>.
- Sophie Hartman, a tour operator specialising in nature and cycling tours, is a trusted advisor for the most interesting exepriences in Madhya Pradesh and rural India with Holidaysinruralindia.com. She responds to us from Kanha National Park, where with a group of female travellers-cyclists she is resting at Shergarh Tented Camp Lodge: << What I love most is the project that has trained 300 girls in martial arts to stand guard in the markets and spaces most frequented by female travellers. Obviously, they wouldn't be strong enough to fight a gang of men, but their attitude is so confident and they are so happy with their acquired independence, they have this absolute inner confidence of 'don't mess with me' that they convey great confidence>>.
- The favourite destination of award-winning travel blogger Mariellen Ward, editor of Breathedreamgo.com and founder of India for Beginners custom tours, is Orchha. Mariellen has travelled extensively in India - a country she describes as "bewildering, overwhelming, astounding, exhilarating and magical" - and believes that Orchha is a special place, with its rushing river, the peaceful energy that unspoilt nature gives it, and an amazing collection of majestic palaces, fortresses and monuments. Being based in Orchha is an ideal way to discover rural Madhya Pradesh.
- Interesting because it is there but not seen, is the Clean Destination project, by SAAHAS: a group of women entrepreneurs with 146 female employees who have started distributing large blue bags, knocking door-to-door to spread the idea of 'making India a leader in a circular economy where nothing is wasted'. <<In Madhya Pradesh," says programme manager Hetal Jalad, "right now we are covering 30 villages near the Panna National Park: people are now collecting, reducing, recycling, cleaning and caring, reaching 90% resource recovery>>.
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- India Jobs For Women Project
Tags: women in tourism