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Published on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Women and children first

So many empowered Indian women! IIPT honours peace, women, and big student presence at massive Maharashtra International Travel Mart

Two major knowledge sessions at the inaugural Maharashtra International Travel Mart involved peace and women  - both revolved around powerful females.

The first showcased Mrs Kia Sherr's peace initiative. This determined and resourceful woman, struggling to come to terms with her husband and daughter's death at the hands of terrorists in the  Mumbai attack of 2008,  set up the One Life Alliance to confront violence and terrorism.

The second session dealt with empowered women in tourism - and there were certainly enough to go around, including Rika Jean Francois of the world's biggest travel fair - ITB and Messe Berlin, Archana Tomer founder of Mountain People - a global charity embracing and empowering local communities and young mother Michelle Kakade the only Indian woman to have completed marathons in four deserts - who outlined her plans to run thousands of miles around India in months of unique challenge.

There was even an unusual Miss India and Miss World runner-up, Parvathy Omanakuttan, who wants to make the travel industry more humane and sustainable and authentic.

There were, of course a few token males helping to moderate the events including Dr. Patrick Kalifungwa, ex Minister for Tourism & Industry, Govt. of Zambia & Vice Chancellor of the Livingstone International University of Excellence in Tourism and Business Management, Lusaka, and the president of the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) and CEO of Nomad Travels - Ajay Prakash.

But these were only the warm-ups for the evening celebrations of womens' contribution to tourism and peace organized by IIPT.

There were presentations from Maharashtra's female Chief Secretary of Tourism and Culture Smt. Valsa Nair Singh, and substantial dignitaries including The Honorable Governor of Maharashtra, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao (who presented the Awards) in the presence of Shri Sudhir Mungantiwar, Hon. Minister of Finance, Forests & Planning, Hon. Minister of State for Tourism, Prof. Ram Naik, and Shri Paraag Jaiin, Managing Director of MTDC.

Ajay Prakash of IIPT  then unveiled the event to recognize and honour women who had not only empowered themselves through tourism but continue to empower others, too.

The extraordinary line up of award winners - women who had contributed to the community in a meaningful fashion and were role models - were:

  • Ms. Anita Deshpande - Co Founder of "Temple Pilots" for contribution to Adventure Tourism
  • Ms. Rashmi Sawant - Founder of "Culture Aangan" for contribution to Rural Tourism
  • Ms. Pamela Gale Malhotra - Co Founder of "SAI Santuary" for services in Protecting Nature and Promoting Eco Friendly Tourism
  • Ms. Sampada Kulkarni - Co Founder of "Aanadache Shet" for contribution to Agri Tourism and the Organic Greening of India
  • Ms. Neelu Singh - COO of Ezeego1 for the Integration of Technology in Travel & Tourism

The Honorable Governor congratulated the winners, and in his animated speech on the benefits of tourism Minister Mungantiwar said that any initiative or enterprise which honoured women was bound to be blessed by success.

And all this was watched by a massed contingent of bright, enthusiastic and animated tourism students.

IIPT India will conduct the International Awards for Empowered Women in Tourism at the ITB Berlin in March 2016. The Awards will be held in association with UNWTO and ITB under the title "Celebrating Her."

Valere Tjolle

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