Zimbabwe: How Zim's Tour Guides Are Breaking Gender Barriers

Popular tourist sites in Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Matoba National Park
20 November 2021

Ennie Katupu is a 23-year-old professional guide in Kariba Urban, and has dedicated her time and life to saving wildlife and wildlands along the Zambezi River.

"When we talk of guiding, it's like studying the environment and nature, and it's also plugged to tourism," she said. "I move around with tourists, showing and teaching them about southern mammals, birds, animals, different species," said Katupu.

"I know where different species are located and I teach tourists about these animals, their habits, and their ecology and social way of living, and survival."

Katupu is among a few female guides who are brave enough to sleep under the stars in the darkest nights, guarding wildlife against poachers.

Katupu has a never-ending love for animals and the environment.

"Being a child who was born in an animal-dominated area, I wanted to know more about animals and the surroundings, hence, I applied to Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZIMPARKS)," she said. "Even though I was the only girl during the 2019 intake, I could not back off."

Asked on what sort of challenges she has faced so far in the field as a female guide, Katupu said: "So far, there are no challenges. l can actually say I'm gaining more experience in the field because it's practical."

She said she is willing to inform and educate Africans on how to conserve and co-exist with the animals and wildlands.

"I am not a media practitioner, but I would love to talk to people and make sure they have a good understanding of the environment and our precious wildlife," she said. "I am ready to provide information that can benefit societies on what I know."

But does she really feel people are doing good to co-exist with wildlands and wildlife?

"People are not willing to co-exist with animals because they don't have the knowledge and skills to deal with the animals," said Katupu. "I feel like people are a threat to animals and our environment, therefore, there is a need to continuously teach them. I would appreciate if publications on how to co-exist with animals and species are shared in a more widespread way."

Katupu is sometimes hired by local tourism companies in Kariba to take tourists through game drives.

She was confident about her work and wishes to see more young women taking up the work to dedicate time and energy towards conserving wildlands and wildlife.

Katupu said youths must take the lead and change their negative perceptions towards animals.

"To the youth of today, l want to let you know that everything is possible," she said. "You can do anything which can change your life and other people's lives. I am a young lady who has embarked on a journey and I will not quit until I die. My goal is to keep my environment on guard and make sure wildlife will not go extinct. Do your part and I will do mine!"

"Do not touch or kill animals: leave footprints only and nature will take its course."

More women in Zimbabwe are breaking barriers to become tour guides in a field largely dominated by men.

Analysts say at least 60 percent of the global tourism workforce is female, despite the fact that just 23 percent of board members in the industry are women.

The female tour guides in adventure travel, is one corner of tourism where women are particularly under-represented.

Experts say they are still far too few women taking up opportunities in adventure travel and wildlife sector. They say many are much more likely to take on lower -- paid cleaning and clerical roles than guiding roles.

But for Katupu, change is in the air.

She wants to break the barriers and become part of the women that keep the world of travel turning. For the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (Zimparks), representation is a fundamental component of achieving equality and access to opportunities for all in the wildlife sector. The authority has supported numerous programmes to empower and celebrate the incredible women working in the tourism and tour guide industry.

Working closely with other partners such as the African Wildlife Foundation, Zimparks has supported the training of women to work as tour guides helping most women to have access to financial autonomy and decent jobs.

Katupu hopes that Zimparks, AWF, tour operators and others working in the travel industry will continue to amplify and empower more female tour guides in the future. -- The Herald/AfricaBrief

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