Climbing above inequality: The determined women of Nepal’s ‘3 Sisters Adventure Trekking’ (photo report)
By Alannah McLaughlin
Women in Nepal face an uphill battle in their pursuit of equal education and employment. Due to cultural and social pressures, the road to gaining financial independence, and the freedom which accompanies it, can be rocky.
One industry beginning to undergo a journey toward gender equality is Nepal’s adventure tourism industry, based in Pokhara. Women currently represent only a small proportion of adventure and trekking guides in Pokhara, but thanks to some female trailblazers, this gap is narrowing.
Mojo Correspondent met with many women linked to the Pokhara based organisation 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking who are determined to penetrate this male dominated industry.
These women are challenged to rise above the opinions and doubts of both others and themselves. And as they find their home amidst a landscape of great heights, they inspire other women to do the same.
Lucky Chettri is one of the founders of ‘3 Sisters Adventure Trekking’. She was one of the first ever female trekking guides in Pokhara.
“At the beginning, nobody trusted us because they have never seen a women guide. They said, oh, women cannot be a guide, they will disappear… They were saying women should not go in the mountain, women should not go in the field, that’s a man’s job”.
“But more and more, we are coming up.”
Dawa Kippa, 30, previously helped her parents with family responsibilities at her home in Thulo Syabru, and worked in a tea house. Inspired by trekkers in the Langtang area, in 2012 she made the decision to become a trekking guide herself. When she was in her village, she wished she was a man, but now she enjoys spending time with nature and people.
“I saw there were much more male guides, and not many females. And then I thought, females are also better for doing treks… We can do it if we are confident, think positively, and do rightly – then it is possible.”
Manu Gurung, originally from Tinchle, was one of the first Nepali women to climb one of the peaks of the Annapurna mountain range. Manu had a challenging childhood. Her father passed away when she was young, she was unable to go to school, and was engaged to be married at 12-years-old. When her husband married a second wife, she decided to get a divorce, leaving her without custody of her then two-year-old daughter.
“I thought my life was over, I wanted to disappear, I didn’t want to live my life…but I saw many trekkers, some female as well. What is top of mountain? What is there? I want to go there, I want to see mountain.”
Manu eventually turned to adventure tourism for a new chance at life. She has been involved in mountain climbing, rock climbing and ice climbing for the past ten years, has participated in international conferences, and has since regained custody of her daughter.
“I was scared and hiding inside, but slowly I learnt… I tried, I never gave up. Now those who blocked me want their daughters to be like me.”
Pasang Tamang, 21, travelled to Pokhara from Langtang village to gain education in rock climbing and trekking. She has learnt many new life skills, and when she is on top of a mountain she feels proud to be a woman, and happy to be alive.
“Before when I stay in my village I mostly said woman can’t do it – they are just married, give birth to a baby – but when I come here and got more opportunity I said wow, women and men are similar!”
Indra Devi Rai, 25, became an assistant trekking guide to gain a safe job with financial security, after a background in lowly paid finance work in the Nagarkot region.
“I now have more experience and confidence and independence in my life. Before it was difficult, I didn’t talk to other friends or people. Now we are talking more. We didn’t talk, we were scared…but now that is less.”
Junu Somai, 23, born in a village in Syangja, made the decision to move to Pokhara to enter adventure tourism in 2013 after finishing school. With a contagious smile and bright colours in her hair, her training is also slowly improving her confidence in English language.
“It is helping for me.”
Annabelle Lama, 19, came from a disadvantaged background in the Kathmandu region. She grew up without her mother and father at ‘Ama Ghar’, a foundation which homes orphaned and underprivileged children. Since a young age, she has been inspired to explore and is now finding her footsteps and training to become a guide.
“I’d really love to do this job as a guide, this is one of my best aims… At first it was difficult, but now it is becoming easier”.
More photos of the women of ‘3 Sisters Adventure Trekking’:
All photos by Alannah McLaughlin.