‘We are the owners of this place’

Axinene is our working title for the Women’s Empowerment Project. This title, brimming with confidence, came about in 2019 when we ran a small pilot with young Ilha women to introduce innovation to the menu without importing foodstuffs from outside. https://ilhablue.com/blog/somethings-simmering

At the core of everything we do at Ilha Blue is localhood, sustainability, creativity and quality. And the delicious vegan milks, infusions and juices were all of that. The enthusiasm from the pilot has kept us moving forwards.

 Update on the Axinene project

The covid-19 crisis has forced the world to pause, to think, to reflect, to imagine a more just, more equitable, sustainable future. During this ‘time of no tourism’ we are taking the opportunity to renovate the Ilha Blue shop to develop a cafe/bar and a creative space that is women focused; a social space that is welcoming and inspiring.

No matter where you are, everyone needs to eat and drink. Ilha is no exception. A good cafe/bar is hard to beat for catching up with friends, holding informal meetings, or just two lovers having a quiet drink. And it makes for an excellent springboard for local women to interact with tourists, practise their English and gain confidence. https://ilhablue.com/blog/womens-empowerment-cafe-to-provide-pathways-to-jobs-through-ethical-coffee-and-traditional-snacks/

We don’t know when tourism will return to Ilha but what we do know is that when it does, it will be different. Even before the crisis a shift was developing that saw tourists increasingly seeking more authentic, local, experiential tourism. Visitors want to be a part of something. To really experience it and get to know more about the lives of the people who live in the places they visit.

Women on Ilha have, for far too long, been absent from these meaningful tourism experiences. To complement the new ‘slow tourism’ we want to develop an arts project to reinvigorate traditional skills and expand on existing skills, then mix it up a bit to create beautiful objects for visitors to purchase. Visitors will have the chance to talk with the makers, an enriching experience for all concerned. The newly renovated space, designed for both workshops and cafe/bar integrates the social space with the work space. It offers the opportunity for women across generations to share their knowledge and stories with each other and interact with visitors. A fully shared experience.

Victória Januário has come onboard as Communications and Liaison officer. Vicky, a Moçambicana from Maputo moved to Ilha de Moçambique 2 years ago. Vicky has a degree in International Relations and is also a costureira (seamstress), amongst many other talents. She has very recently had a baby so the opportunity to get involved and set her own pace is just right for now. Vicky and I have been brainstorming about the project as a whole, exploring possible economic models and expanding our women’s networks. We are casting the net wide, reaching out to women for all aspects of the project.

Covid-19 restrictions are hampering our face-to-face communications with the women on Ilha but this week Vicky will be developing the focus groups to delve deeper into what the women of Ilha want. Our conversations will be with both young women and older women. Intergenerational storytelling is key to the success of the discussions. We prefer to meet up with women in typical surroundings but for now that’s not possible. So meetings will take place in the parks and on the breezy pontão at safe social distances.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth waiting for. Vakhani vakhani

Gail Woods, Co-founder