Women Empowerment

Reflection by Matt Sykes

Mid-way through compiling a submission to the World Tourism Organisation’s Startup Competition I was struck by a realisation - women are the key to the Regeneration movement, especially Gen Y women.

Three weeks out from the deadline (September 20) I’d contacted 16 colleagues to support Regeneration Projects’ submission. The idea being that we could assess RP’s alignment with each one of the Sustainable Development Goals. Then we’d pick a focus to dive into deeper. It was a tight turnaround, but many colleagues were under- or unemployed, so I knew we were in good shape.

During one of the group brainstorming sessions someone flagged RP’s empowerment of young women, in reference to SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’. I paused for a moment and then it sunk in … 10 of the most active contributors are super talented young professional women. At the time I remember saying that the majority of sustainability and regen leaders that I’ve met on my travels around the world are pioneering heroines. They’re generally more open-minded and progressive than men. The irony, and shame, is that they don’t hold equal power.

I feel stupid writing this … some feminist colleagues will be saying “Duhhh … Thanks for noticing!” And being a so-called ‘white male’ with blonde hair and blue eyes puts me higher on some peoples’ hate list. I sense that in some meetings and the accompanying subtext, “why don’t you shut up and get out of our way, you’re just like the guys sitting on the boards destroying our planet.” You know what, I don’t blame them either.

So, after assessing RP’s alignment with each of the SDGs there was a consensus that our greatest strength is SDG 17 ‘Partnerships for the Goals’. We embrace intersectionality by collaborating across genders, cultures, generations, sectors and industries. We’re not actually a tourism business, but we act we like one in the sense of connecting people and places who share common themes and goals, namely regenerating our Earth.

I really just want to take this opportunity to acknowledge those young women who supported the UNWTO submission and the growing number of others that we work with. You’re genuinely an inspiration. A special mention to Daisy, Yvonne, Katherine, Liv, Cat, Jaari and Tanya, seven sisters who have been behind the scenes volunteering time and energy to support RP’s emergence during COVID lockdown. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Thank you.

PS: A shout out to the Regen sisterhood, keep leading the way! And if you’re looking for collaborators, you know where to find us.

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