Port of Call
Port Louis, Mauritius: Promoting Women's Entrepreneurship and Celebrating the New Year with Local Children, Dec 30, 2016
The Mauritian Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare gives an interview to a local television station.
On December 30, 2016, Peace Boat was welcomed with dance and music at Port Louis, the capital of the island nation Mauritius. Amongst several exchange and educational programmes which took place that day, one group of Peace Boat participants travelled to Phoenix to visit the National Women Entrepreneur Council (NWEC), an organization which was established by the Mauritian Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare in 1999 to promote entrepreneurship amongst women in Mauritius. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), although women in Mauritius fare well in terms of educational attainment, this progress has not yet translated into equality in terms of wage equality, income levels or political representation.

Juckhory Khesika runs her own greeting card business
Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare welcomed the Peace Boat participants with a speech in which she explained that NWEC currently supports 3350 women entrepreneurs by providing training programmes to improve their technical and managerial skills. It also offers marketing assistance, for example by providing a market space in which the women can sell their handicrafts. Peace Boat participants met several of the women at NWEC. Juckhory Khesika runs her own greeting card business; she benefited from the support of NWEC through its leadership training programme. Participants engaged in a fruitful exchange with the women and had the opportunity to buy their products. "I believe Japan could also benefit from this type of organization, as women still face numerous challenges in securing decent employment in my country", remarked Nakamura Erika, a Peace Boat participant.

A Peace Boat participant shares a hug with a new friend.
After a warm farewell, participants travelled to a nearby venue where they met approximately 30 local Mauritian children to share their respective cultures and celebrate the New Year together. Established in 2001, Les Enfants d'un Rvethe organization which facilitated the exchangeprovides support to approximately 50 children from 15 impoverished families living in the neighbourhoods of Richelieu and Mahebourg, on the outskirts of Port Louis. Each child receives the equivalent of 33 US dollars per month, which enables them to go to kindergarten or primary school.

The local children play fuku warai, a Japanese New Year's game in which the blindfolded player must try to create a face.
Participants and children shared a hearty lunch over much laughter and merriment. The meal consisted of a variety of Mauritian dishes which evoked the country's multicultural heritage: samosas; spicy lentil cakes; fried rice; stir-fried chicken and vegetables; and sweet and sour fish. Happily sated, participants played traditional Japanese New Year games with the children and taught them origami, the art of folding paper into various shapes. The children sang songs in French, one of the national languages of Mauritius, and performed a traditional Mauritian sega dance with gusto.

Abigaelle, one of the local children, plays with a bubble blower which she received from the Peace Boat participants
Shortly before it was time to depart, Peace Boat participants offered gifts of clothes and toys to the children, who excitedly unwrapped them. The bus ride back to the boat afforded participants time to reflect on the day's experiences. Many were moved to see the economic hardship faced some of the people they had met, but were inspired by initiatives like National Women Entrepreneur Council (NWEC) and Les Enfants d'un Rve. One young participant, Ota Arisa, appreciated the cultural exchange: "Although we come from very different cultures and do not speak the same language, we greatly enjoyed playing and dancing together. I wish we could have spent more time together."