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Empowering Women Through Tourism: Insights from ADB’s Gender Specialist Chieko Yokota

Chieko Yokota, ADB’s Gender Specialist, emphasizes the pivotal role of tourism in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, sharing success stories and ADB’s strategic approach at the PATA Conference.

At the PATA International Conference of Women in Tourism held in Bohol, Philippines, Chieko Yokota, a prominent Gender Specialist from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), delivered a compelling speech that highlighted the indispensable role of tourism in promoting gender equality and economic empowerment for women. Yokota’s journey from a conservative background in rural Japan to a leading advocate for gender equality at an international level underscores the transformative power of support and determination in overcoming barriers.

Drawing from her personal and professional experiences, Yokota shed light on ADB’s comprehensive strategy towards integrating gender equality into its operations. The organization, which has been championing gender mainstreaming for over two decades, aims to ensure that inclusive and sustainable development is achieved by consciously investing in women across all sectors. With gender equality being one of the seven priority pillars under ADB’s Strategy 2030, Yokota outlined the five key pillars that guide ADB’s efforts:

  1. women’s economic empowerment,
  2. gender equality in human development,
  3. decision-making and leadership,
  4. reducing women’s time poverty, and
  5. enhancing gender-responsive infrastructure and crisis response.

Chieko Yokota

Yokota’s address particularly focused on the intersection of gender equality and tourism, an industry known for its significant female workforce yet marred by disparities in leadership roles and vulnerability to harassment and gender-based violence. Through a series of project examples from Laos, Fiji, and upcoming initiatives in the Philippines, she demonstrated how targeted interventions in tourism can create substantial opportunities for women’s leadership, employment, and entrepreneurship.

The projects in Laos PDR and Vietnam, for instance, have not only improved infrastructure and tourism facilities but have also empowered women through vocational training and business development networks. Similarly, ADB’s collaboration with Fiji Airways during the COVID crisis led to increased opportunities for female pilots and a commitment towards more gender-inclusive policies within the company.

Yokota’s speech eloquently conveyed the potential of the tourism sector to serve as a catalyst for women’s economic empowerment and social transformation. Her message resonated with the audience, reinforcing the idea that with the right support and policies, women can significantly contribute to and benefit from the growing tourism industry in Asia and the Pacific.

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