Empowering the women of Nepal
While Canadians can never walk in the shoes of Nepalese women, they can contribute to buying boots for the women who want to improve their education and employment opportunities by training to be trek guides.
“I met the sisters for the first time when I was trekking in Nepal in 1999,” said Rev. Sharon Ferguson Hood of Trinity United Church, who is organizing a dinner and slide show benefit for the women guides.
“They were leading treks then but they were fearful of the repercussions in the traditional, patriarchal society. There had never been women guides and porters in the country but they found that women trekkers from around the world were wanting to trek with women guides and porters.”
The sisters, Nicky, Dicky and Lucky Chhetri, persevered and built up their business, 3 Sisters Adventure, which trains women to be guides and porters. While the technical skills are world class, the training in English and other languages and the self-confidence gained from having a well-paying job are just as important. The women use their earnings to pay for further education, help their families and go on to work in other aspects of ecotourism or open their own businesses.
Working through the organization Empowering Women of Nepal, the Chhetri sisters also support an orphanage and school and provide women’s health training and share their experiences with other women’s organizations around the world.
“I have seen Nepalese porters working just wearing flip flops. I took 15 pairs of rock climbing shoes last time and this year with the help of Valhalla Sports, I want to take 12 pairs of hiking boots. Having the boots and socks and anything else we can take means a lot to these women,” said Ferguson Hood, who has been to Nepal six times and is returning later this year with a group of six B.C. women to Jumla in western Nepal, one of the poorest and most remote areas of the country. They will be on a 12-day trek of the region. In the past, Ferguson Hood has taken tents, sleeping bags, hiking clothing and school supplies.
“This is much bigger than it looks. Helping the sisters to help women gain skills means that they will not be taken for the sex trade and they and their families will have a better life. For me, this is about empowerment of women. It has been amazing to get to know the sisters and watch them grow to an organization that no longer lives in fear but works fully in the world. I go to support them in their work.”
The Nepalese Dinner Night features a meal of nan bread, dahl bhat (lentils and onions) and rice. There will be a slide show to give an overview of the country. All proceeds go towards providing the boots and anything left over will go for other supplies for the orphanage/school or the trek training school. The B.C. women going to Nepal are volunteers and pay all their own expenses.
The dinner takes place at Trinity United Church in Vernon Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. Admission is by donation but reservations must be made no later than Feb. 11. For more information and reservations, call 250-545-0797.