How an Organization Uses Dubai Hospitality ‘Exchanges’ to Transform African Communities

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to reduce employment opportunities around the world, rural communities in developing countries face particular challenges and limited access to employment.

This challenge is very close to Assia Riccio-Smith, the founder of Evolvin ‘Women, a social enterprise focused on training women in disadvantaged societies.

The entrepreneur, who says his own mother was taken out of education and invited to work to support the family at the age of nine, says her organization grew out of a need to create a legacy for the advancement of women and prevent the spread of child labor.

“When I was living in Dubai in 2016, I decided to take time and travel to Africa and saw the same reality my mother told me in the 1960s in Italy, where she grew up.”

Riccio-Smith says that the ultimate goal of Evolvin ‘Women is to put women at the forefront of community development – by creating a microeconomy that enables villages and communities to be empowered and self-sufficient.

Originally from a hotel background, Riccio-Smith used this experience to create a 27-month development program for women in developing countries to work for two years in hotels in Dubai, while gaining education, mentorship. and online training to increase their employment. opportunities in their home country.

“It’s like an exchange program,” says Riccio-Smith. “We make it available to unemployed women who have not received a quality education.

“After these two years, we are working with our other partners to help them find jobs at home so that they can return home. They can return home with skills and international experience.

Working with hotel companies such as Accor Hotels and the Hilton Group, Evolvin ‘Women initially recruited 200 women – with programs set to continue when the global pandemic subsides.

But this is not the only project Riccio-Smith has in the works. In South Africa, Evolvin ‘Women is building eco-lodges, with the aim of creating jobs and implementing tourism practices in the local community, while reducing hunger and poverty.

“It’s a great project because it brings together the women of the community,” says Riccio-Smith. “The ecolodge will be a hub for the villages where the girls come from.

“The ecolodge is a sustainable business but at the same time, it is a service to the community. We recruit and buy from the community; our supply chain is the village and this creates an economically sustainable model.

Evolvin ‘Women currently operates in Ghana and Rwanda as well as South Africa. The social enterprise has future plans to set up in Zambia with funding secured through hotel administration fees or sponsorships, with any profits made being reinvested in community projects.

The work of Evolvin ‘Women is crucial for women who hope to improve their life or that of their family, and also means that the education they receive can be recycled for hundreds of other women.

Ricco-Smith says: “Real change is happening within the community. We take the women out of the community, show them something completely different, and tell them to share it with that community – the men, the tribal leader, their children – and create the change from within.

“You inspire other women and people in your community. You also create an emotional bond with your family; you come home and you are much stronger. We are only facilitating change.

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