Celebrating Women’s Month in Southern Africa’s Tropical Paradises
Halfway through Women’s Month in South Africa, it’s time to raise our sails and journey to the heart of the Indian Ocean. We’re embarking on a vibrant voyage to the captivating island destinations of Southern Africa and beyond. These paradises are not just defined by their breathtaking landscapes but also by the inspiring women who infuse them with life, culture, and resilience. Join us as we celebrate the spirit of womanhood while uncovering the hidden treasures of these tropical havens.
Seychelles: Empowerment by the Turquoise Waters
Our journey begins in the Seychelles, a mesmerizing archipelago of azure waters and powdery beaches. From doctors and dentists to women-run entrepreneurs, the Seychelles offer a front-row seat to the strength and resilience of the local women. Examples include the late Hilda Stevenson-Delhomme, the first Seychellois female doctor and politician and Connie Anthony, appointed a Lieutenant on board the Seychelles Coast Guards vessel, PS Etoile, after completing the Maritime Training Academy and later the Officer Cadet Course at the Britannia Royal Naval College in UK. She was the first female officer to work on a Coast Guard vessel.
Mauritius: Leading with Grace, Crafting with Love
In Mauritius, an island of diversity and charm, women play a key role in preserving traditions and forging ahead with innovation. Stroll through bustling markets to witness their intricate artistry, as they create colourful textiles and handcrafted treasures. It’s a celebration of heritage and creativity, all in the delicate hands of resilient women. Amidst this beauty, women are emerging as strong leaders. One such example is Dr Bibi Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a Mauritian politician and biodiversity scientist. She served as the sixth president of Mauritius from 2015 to 2018 and the First Female President of the country.
Zanzibar: Tales of Heritage, Women of Strength
In the heart of the Indian Ocean lies Zanzibar, an island paradise where the rhythmic tides of history and heritage merge. Zanzibar’s women stand as torchbearers of tradition, passing down the rich cultural tapestry from one generation to the next. From the bustling markets of Stone Town to the serene villages along the coast, their hands create intricate jewelry, vibrant fabrics, and timeless crafts that reflect centuries of history. Looking back through history, Zanzibar’s mythical woman ruler, Mwana wa Mwana, protest musician Sitti Binti Saad who used traditional taarab music to condemn gender-based violence, and more recently first female president of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan. Affectionately known as “Mama Samia,” she changed the country’s approach to coronavirus and media freedom and allowed pregnant teenage girls to return to school as well as hiring 6000 new teachers.
Maldives: Serenity and Sisterhood
Venturing further into the Indian Ocean, the Maldives beckon with their pristine shores and overwater bungalows. Here, women form the backbone of hospitality, welcoming guests with warmth and grace. However, there’s a lot more to Maldivian women.
Safaath Ahmed Zahir is a women’s rights activist who promotes women’s economic empowerment in the Maldives, including the creation of ‘Women on Boards,’ a nonprofit that encourages gender diversity in the workplace and ‘Women and Democracy,’ a youth-led non-government organisation promoting women’s economic and political participation. She’s obviously done something right as a string of successful women entrepreneurs have emerged, including Aroosha Abdul Sattar, Chief Operating Officer of a startup tech company; Zoona Naseem, Owner of Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre, and successful fashion designer, Raidha Shafeeq, Founder of Raidha’s Maldives.
Reunion Island: Where Adventure Meets Empowerment
The island of Reunion reveals its rugged landscapes and daring spirit. Here, women take on challenges with fearless determination. With a heritage rooted in fighting slavery, women played a huge role in the fugitive society. They were an integral part of the camps and imparted traditions, knowledge, beliefs and rites to their children. They also contributed to the island’s racial mixing and the discovery of the island’s renowned cirques. Today, innovator, Juliette Masson, shows the same spirit. A farmer in Bras-Panon on the east coast of Reunion Island, she took over her father’s farm when he retired and successfully diversified from producing sugarcane to also growing chilli peppers, vanilla, and potatoes.
We celebrate the remarkable women who shape these Southern African and Indian Ocean gems. Their stories of empowerment, preservation, and unity are etched into the very fabric of these islands. Here’s to the women who make these island escapes truly extraordinary.
Happy Women’s Month!