CQUni academics helping Nepalese women become tourism leaders

Published:07 June 2019

Participants in the workshop on Women in Leadership and Entrepreneurship. BELOW: Dr Wendy Hillman with Prakash Regmi, Principal of the Nepal Tourism Hotel Management College.

Nepalese women are showing they can overcome a tradition of patriarchal structures to forge success as entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly in the tourism and trekking industries.

In recent years, this success has been nurtured by CQUniversity academics Dr Wendy Hillman and Dr Kylie Radel, who have made frequent visits to the mountainous nation.

Their merit grant project is focused on 'empowerment, emancipation and equality for women in Nepal through entrepreneurship and tourism'.

Dr Hillman recently delivered a workshop on Women in Leadership and Entrepreneurship in Kathmandu, Nepal.

During the same trip, she also presented a guest lecture at the Nepal Tourism Hotel Management College (NTHMC) in Pokhara.

"We discussed how social entrepreneurship can achieve social change and how tourism presents women with innovative prospects for social progress," Dr Hillman says.

"Social change supports the capacity of females to express their voice and to develop their agency over their individual emancipation, prevailing over indoctrinated socio-cultural conditioning."

Dr Hillman says the research project is investigating the 'entrepreneurship pathways' and key themes behind seven different Nepali organisations that provide training or skills for women wishing to engage in tourism in Nepal, and which are owned and run by social entrepreneur women.

"Our engaged research project is informed by the voices of current women entrepreneurs, the tourism industry, and government and non-government stakeholders.

"The study involves working with women in two remote, rural villages of north-west Nepal, to investigate ways in which they have, and can continue to, overcome long-standing and historical hegemony, patriarchy and inequality.

"We aim to understand their lived experiences, to investigate the barriers and facilitators for entrepreneurship in the tourism industry.

"Through qualitative research data collection techniques, we are documenting the tourism development strategies that women in remote, rural north-west Nepal implement to empower themselves and to enable change and equality for themselves and their communities.

"The outcomes from this engaged research also have wider implications from a social innovation standpoint as we will develop case studies to change awareness, knowledge and understanding around women’s entrepreneurship in developing economies, with a key outcome to inform policy and practice in Australia, Nepal, and other locations."

Dr Hillman and Dr Radel say the women who have started a journey towards tourism entrepreneurship and personal emancipation have demonstrated great capacity and resilience, in the face of Nepal’s patriarchal customs and traditions.

On a previous study tour, the CQUni researchers foot-slogged across remote trails to investigate potential income-generating opportunities for impoverished Nepalese women.

Living in the homes of Nepalese families gave them a chance to discuss small steps that could have large benefits for local communities.

“We are looking into hands-on projects that can help these remote villages - one rupee at a time and one shovel at a time – not major infrastructure,” says Dr Radel.

“We are looking at things like tourism homestays, farm tourism and volunteer tourism.

“We are looking at delivering remote education, raising literacy, numeracy and basic business skills.

“We are looking at marketing and distribution of local farm produce and even new products such as honey.”

The CQUni researchers have identified key themes that are crucial to longer-term success: changing social impressions of women and girls; self-dependence; support mechanisms for entrepreneurship; two-way transformations; branching out; and women retaining control.