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Empowering Women through Adventure Tourism & Sports
Empowering Women through Adventure Tourism & Sports
The 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking Company was established in 1994 in Pokhara, Nepal. Prior to that, the founders, the three sisters Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Karki Chhetri were running a small guest house and restaurant in Pokhara’s Lakeside tourist area. Some of their female guests shared disturbing stories of being harassed by male guides on their treks. The sisters were shocked and saddened to hear such stories and decided to become guides themselves.
After a few years of being guides, the sisters could see the demand for female guides and assistants (porters) was growing. They started training young Nepali women to become professional mountain guides and assistants, giving them an opportunity to become self-supporting and thus empowered. This led to the inception of Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN), a sister NGO of 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking.
3 Sisters Adventure is one of the few women-owned trekking companies in Nepal and EWN has trained nearly 1000 disadvantaged, rural women to become trekking guides and assistants. It is the only trekking company in Nepal that provides a platform for rural, disadvantaged women who have few opportunities to develop their knowledge, learn and use their skills to earn an income to support themselves and their families, to travel to new places outside their isolated villages, to meet and communicate with other Nepalese women and share their stories, and interact with foreigners from all over the world. These three sisters have truly been role models for Nepalese women; true to their mantra they are “changing the world, one woman at a time”.
Sports in Nepal
All over the world, outdoor sports, both spectator and participatory, bring people together and have numerous benefits, however, Nepali society does not place much value on sport. Both private and government school are obliged to offer a sports class only once a week which is not mandatory and many schools do not even offer this. Boys dominate any sports facilities organised or otherwise, whilst the girls are very self-conscious and rarely participate. In co-educational schools much emphasis and support is given to the boys to engage and improve their sports skills with little if any offered to girls.
Some of the reasons why girls are not actively playing sports are: lack of encouragement from parents and school teachers, the need to work at home, no changing rooms, traditional stigma of “girls don’t play sport” and most importantly lack of good female Nepali sports coaches and role models.
With organisations such as EWN promoting sports and life skills for girls across the country, communities are for the first time taking pride in the women from their villages and acknowledging their capabilities. This was beautifully illustrated in the recent film Sunatalia true story about a group of football playing girls from Mugu, one of the poorest districts in Nepal, who went on to win the national tournament. They returned to their district and a hero’s welcome with villagers from all over coming out to celebrate their success.
One of the main goals of EWN is to use adventure tourism and sports to empower disadvantaged rural women who have been marginalized and discriminated against because of gender, caste, and social status.
Twice a year, EWN provides intensive trekking guide training in Pokhara for young women. After a month’s training, the trainees practice their skills in the field, going on a number of field trips through the trekking company. They can work their way up from porters to being assistants and eventually guides themselves once they have displayed competence.
In the beginning, the idea of having women guides was not well received by the predominantly, male-dominated society of Nepal. Because some of the women were extremely poor, were involved in abusive relationships, and discriminated against, they had no courage to speak up to their husbands and families to let them work outside their homes.
Some of the women who dared to challenge and change their lives are doing very well, not only are they learning and making money, they are confident and happy. As a result, friends and families could see the positive change and attitudes started to shift. Now families are encouraging their daughters and wives to become trekking guides.
Over the years 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking and EWN have gone from strength to strength, expanding their trainings into rock climbing and basic mountaineering programs. In 2011, four girls went on a mountain climbing expedition to summit Annapurna IV (7525m) following several years of mountaineering training in Nepal and abroad coordinated by EWN. These women were amongst the first Nepali women to ever set foot in the Annapurnas and make history in the field of mountaineer.
The GOAL programme started in 2013. It is an outreach programme in local government schools for under-privileged children. The programme is designed to empower and educate young girls on pressing issues that affect their lives, for example, leadership, discrimination, violence against women, sexual health, trafficking and other pertinent social topics.
Combining practical skill-based training programs with gainful employment opportunities, the common goal is to encourage our Nepali sisters to become self-supportive, independent, decision-making women.
EWN dreams and aspirations
Sports and physical activity promote wellness and mental health for all. It is EWN’s hope to spread awareness about the importance of sporting activities for young people as part of a well-balanced education.
Our goal is to reach a broader community of people by continuing our current programs, expanding the GOAL program to boys, further collaboration and community mobilisation efforts in the Kaski district and across the country using sports for development program.
EWN/3Sisters Adventure dream is to eventually build an adventure sports complex for young people to nurture and harness their sporting potential. As always, our goal is to target particularly disadvantaged Nepalis who have the right to equal opportunities to control and lead their own lives.