In partnership with Mercy Hands Europe, Mercy Hands team in Basra implemented a workshop titled "Women Empowerment Through Eco-tourism in Basra", in March 8, which marks the International Women Day.
A total of 17 participants attended the workshop.13 out of the 17 participants were women. The participants came from different backgrounds: 9 managers of local NGOs, 4 managers of local tourism companies, 3 officials from Basra governor office, and 1 member of the parliament. All participants were from Basra.
The lead facilitator of the workshop was the brilliant trainer Mr. Thair AL-Mansouri, assisted by Mr. Jaqoop Al-Nashmi. The main topics of the workshop were: types of tourism in Iraq, concept and practices of ecotourism, discussions to explore opportunities for ecotourism in Basra; and discussions on how to empower women to invest in ecotourism in Basra.
The guest of honor was Eng. Zahra Albachari, the member of the Iraqi Parliament from Basra. She enriched the discussions with her experience and knowledge. She founded a tourism institute in Basra but it was closed after 2 years due to bureaucratic hardships. She thinks Basra governorate needs a tourism institute, for men and women or just women. Ms. Zahra was very interested in ecotourism but she's also into cultural heritage tourism, especially religious tourism.
The participants had general and specific ideas to invest in tourism in Basra, such as:
1- Conducting media campaigns at the local, regional, and global levels to promote cultural heritage tourism and ecotourism in Basra. There should be a media campaign targeting tens of thousands of pilgrims from Arab gulf states who every year cross Basra through Kuwait on their way to religious shrines in Najaf and Karbala.
2- Starting a tourism institute
3- Producing a tourism guide for Basra
4- Identify and build the capacity of local tour guides, especially women.
5- Basra is known for its local cuisines. The reputation of some of its food makers transcends the boundaries of Basra. For example, people come from outside Basra just to get the well known and unique Halawat Nahar Khooz (sweets) and the one and only Um Hayder's dairy products (Gaimar and Rouba).
6- More than half of the foreigners entering Basra through the airport are employees and contractors of the international oil companies working in Basra. These foreigners get picked up from the airport by private security vehicles that will take them to the oil company compound outside Basra City. A lot of these foreigners wish to see Basra or at least get a souvenir but they can't get out of the compound due to reportedly the type of their visa and security measures set by the oil companies that prohibit them from leaving the compound. The workshop participants suggested opening a souvenir or gift shop at the airport passengers pick up/ drop off area that will sell for example handicraft products made in Basra.
All participants agreed that the local government can and should do a lot to encourage tourism in Basra. For example, the local government can work with the federal governorate and oil companies to permit the oil companies' foreign workers to move freely in Basra or at least be allowed to visit Basra city.
The participants also agreed and emphasized on the role of women in promoting tourism and businesses in general in Basra:
The civil society and private sector can do a lot to improve ecotourism and toursim in general in Basra and a partnership with Basra governorate will enhance that role.
Mercy Hands will continue to rally around a "beautiful Basra" and a joint constructive effort of all stakeholders to serve the city and its people.