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Ten young women who climbed Everest inspire Nepal's youth, women to dream big

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 2 months ago

Seven young women are travelling around Nepal, making a presentation that may well inspire other young women to aspire to the highest peaks – literally. In May 2008, they were part of a team of 10 young Nepalese women, made up of all Nepal’s castes and ethnicities, who successfully climbed the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, known in Tibet as Chomolungma and in Nepal as Sagarmatha.

Aged 17-30, the young ‘Everest Women’ range from a fashion model to one who supported her family and schooling by washing clothes - Chunu Shrestha, Asha Singh, Nimdoma Sherpa (youngest woman ever to have reached the top), Maya Gurung, Pemadiki Sherpa, Nawang Sherpa, Shailee Basnet, Sushmita Maskey, and Usha Bisht. This is the first time that women from the Brahmin, Chettri, Danuwar, and Gurung communities have summited Mount Everest.

“Being a team of young women who worked together to achieve what many thought impossible inspires us to reach out to more women and youngsters,” the women say. “We aim to spread the message of women empowerment, youth involvement, and education through travel and adventure sports activities.” Their  non-profit NGO, Global Inclusive Adventures (GIA), wants to create opportunities for women in the tourism industry, particularly adventure sports such as skydiving, paragliding, climbing, trekking, skiing, rafting and kayaking, while also protecting the fragile environment. GIA wants to educate people about the effects of climate change on Nepalese people and their livelihoods, and its impacts on one of Nepal’s greatest resources - the Himalayas. Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains.

Everest presents avalanches, crevasses, ferocious winds, sudden storms, deep freeze temperatures and low levels of oxygen. Even using bottled oxygen, climbers experience extreme fatigue, impaired judgment and coordination, headaches, nausea, double vision, and sometimes hallucinations. In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first people to reach the summit, and men dominated the expeditions for several decades. Then in 1975, Japan’s Junko Tabei became the first woman to ascend.

In 1993, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa became the first Nepali woman to reach the top. The first all- female-Nepali team, "Millennium Everest Expedition," assembled in 2000, included four Sherpa women but its leader, Lhakpa Doma Sherpa, who holds the record for most successful summit attempts by a woman (her sixth was in 2007), was the only one to reach the summit. Before the young women’s team, only seven Nepali woman (the late Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, Lhakpa Doma Sherpa, the late Pemba Doma Sherpa, Ming Kipa Sherpa, Moni Mulepati Sherpa, Maya Sherpa, and Pasang Lhamu Sherpa) had accomplished the feat.

That statistic was what inspired Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who holds the world’s speed record for climbing Everest (eight hours), to propose an all-women expedition in 2007. He felt it was a shame that a mountain in Nepal climbed by over 3,000 people, including 75 women, from 20 countries between 1922 and 2006, had been climbed by only seven Nepalese women. Together with Da Gombu Sherpa, founder president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, he led the women’s team to Everest.

Eight of the 10 team-members were first-time mountaineers with just basic training, and Nepal has no training facilities, other than the Institute for Mountaineering, so the GIA is currently working with tourism organisations in a feasibility study to set up a mountaineering school in Nepal. The largest female expedition ever, the First Inclusive Women’s Sagarmatha (Everest) Expedition employed women during all stages, from co-ordination, to cooks, mule drivers and support staff, and planted the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) flag of Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women atop Everest.

During their visits to Nepal’s schools between November 2008 and October 2009, Inclusive Sagarmatha Speakers is focusing on how education and teamwork helped the team achieve success. "Our objective is to pass the message that success comes with hard work and education; that neither age, religion, caste or region matters if you really want to achieve something", says 24-year old team member, Shailee Basnett , who is a journalist with Nepal’s Himalmedia, of their school presentations. "What matters is good teamwork and leadership," Shailee says. "We did our own work, including training in the morning and sweeping our one-room office thereafter, all wore similar T-shirts to look like a team and went uninvited to conferences, businessmen, politicians raising 10 million Nepali rupees (131,000 US dollars)."

Shailee described the summit, which she reached on May 23, 2008 as ‘magical’. "I could see the tips of all those seemingly impossible high peaks down below me. The summit has a gentle slope, with a cornice at one end; it looks as though Everest is still growing".

The expedition was supported by the BP Koirala India-Nepal Foundation, the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the support of the European Commission (EC), government and non-government organizations, and the private sector.

“This expedition stands as evidence that women can excel in all fields,” said the Danish Ambassador to Nepal, Finn Thilsted. “These young women have demonstrated that they are equally skilled, courageous and as strong their as male counterparts. We are happy that we supported their efforts, and look forward to their ongoing contribution towards empowering and encouraging women in Nepal. “

“This achievement shows that no dream is too big,” said WFP country representative Richard Ragan. “This represents a giant leap for Nepali women and dispels the notion that adventure sports should be closed to certain groups.” Said Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau, UNDP Country Director in Nepal: “These ten young women have proven that a same common will, the commitment to a higher common goal and unfailing team work can bridge over any original differences in skills, experience, education and ethnicity.”

This story was prepared from a number of sources, including an IPS story by Keya Acharya entitled Women Everesters Talk Gender Equality, datelined Kathmandu March 2, 2009; a May 27, 2008 news release issued by DANIDA/WFP/UNDP entitled "All-Female Nepali Expedition Completes Historic Mount Everest Summit Bid”; and information on the GIA and FIWSE 2008 websites. All the amazing pictures of this historic climb come from the FIWSE website.


For more stories about Nepal, see:

Trekking training empowers Nepalese women

Community-based mediation is having positive effect on domestic violence in Nepal

Female health care volunteers save childrens' lives in remote Nepal

Gift, and teacher's wish, links remote Nepal villages with the world

Life-changing gift of education for Nepalese girls began with one man’s generosity

Linking the health community to resources and each other in Nepal

Nepal's first composting toilets win converts, nurture gardens

Reducing brain drain, building local economy in Nepal

Small is beautiful; Nepal pioneers appropriate, affordable technology

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