SEVEN SUMMITS WOMEN AND THEIR JOURNEY TO THE TOP
Men need to be reminded of how strong women can be, as they are often quick to undermine the female gender’s capacity. To prove the strength of women, one could ramble on about the miracle and pains of holding a baby for 9 months in the womb and bringing new life into this world; that usually shuts any naysayers. However, that tends to get old in a rush. This is a story about seven very ordinary women who are showing the world that they are anything but.
The journey of these seven brave women started with the ‘First Inclusive Women Sagarmatha Expedition 2008 Spring’, an expedition that comprised of ten women The journey of these seven brave women started with the ‘First Inclusive Women Sagarmatha Expedition 2008 Spring’, an expedition that comprised of ten women. The team included 10 ten Nepali women, from 17-27 years-old, representing a range of the country’s castes and ethnicities. It was the first time that women from the Brahmin, Chettri, Danuwar, and Gurung communities had summited Mount Everest. For these fearless women, the expedition was not only about making it to the summit in 75 days but also about breaking down barriers for Nepali women in a currently male-dominated society and inspiring in them the confidence to pursue new roles, not just within climbing and adventure sports, but within Nepal itself. By doing so, they shattered the socio-cultural barriers of our patriarchal society.
After completing the expedition , Out of the ten participants, seven women– Shailie Basnet, Maya Gurung, Pemadiki Sherpa, Pujan Acharya, Chunu Shrestha, Nimadoma Sherpa and Asha Kumari decided to do something more for the country and women all over the world. On January 2009, they formed a team called ‘Everest Women Seven Summits Eco- Action Team’ with a massive mission of climbing the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, to wave the Nepali flag across the world and to inspire women and youth to go after their dreams. So far, the team has climbed the highest mountains in five countries and with only 2 more to go, these women seem more determined than ever!
To know more about their expedition and their future plans, we caught up with Shailee Basnet, one of the members as well as the coordinator of the Seven Summits Women Team. This is what she had to say on behalf of all her team mates.
1. How did you all come to know each other?
We enrolled as members of the ‘First Inclusive Women Sagarmatha Expedition 2008 Spring’. The organizers, Climber’s Club was looking for members to join the expedition. We all came to know about it from various sources and signed up.
2. What sparked this expedition?
The idea for organizing the Everest expedition came from Da Gombu Sherpa and Pemba Dorje Sherpa. We enrolled and climbed as a team of 10 Nepali women and all of us made it to the summit of Everest. After Everest some of us wanted to continue as a team and relive such an experience. That is actually how the Seven Summits mission started.
3. What is the key objective behind this initiative?
Our dream is to wave the Nepali flag across 7 continents. Our goal is to compile the knowledge gained in the epic journey into an educational book. While ‘Together We Reach Higher’ is our mantra. In a nutshell, our objective is to highlight education, empowerment and environment as the keys to attain great heights which helps humankind reach our highest potential.
4. What are the challenges the team has faced in the journey till date?
We would say many and of all sorts. Climbing itself comprises challenges that are physical, mental as well as technical. Preparing for mountains take a lot of effort and dedication. In addition, for a big team to put the climb together financially and logistically is a surmounting task. The non-climbing challenges have actually been truly testing which has made us much stronger and mature in the last 7 years.
5. As a team, what according to you are your biggest achievements, so far?
The answer is in your question. Our biggest achievement is that we are a team that has stood together through thick and thin. This journey has not been easy at all. Yet we have survived being broke for almost 7 years chasing a big common dream. People find that implausible all the time and it even surprises us at times. From just another face in the crowd, we have as a team reached the highest peaks in 5 continents already. It has been a humbling journey that we can be proud of.
6. As activists, and particularly as women, you must have had faced many obstacles – what helped you overcome them? Where did you find the strength and courage that has sustained you throughout the movement over all these years?
Yes, there have been many obstacles and every time we come across such situations, we deal with it. Yes, the easier option might be to quit it all; but somehow we have been able to put one step after another. And when you can do that continuously, overtime it becomes a major strength and a driving force. That’s all we’ve done, one tiny step after another.
7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a part of a change, but just doesn’t know how they can make a difference?
When one doesn’t know how, where or what, then the best thing to do is to help someone else bring the change they are working for. It may be someone building schools, cleaning Bagmati, raising gender awareness… it could be anything. Supporting someone’s initiative is being a part of a change indeed. And many a times it opens doors to understanding your passion and how you can make a difference.
8. How do you view the situation for women and girls around the country today? What according to you are the areas where women really need to step up?
Women need to step up everywhere and so does the society. Changes are happening, it’s normal to see kick-ass women in various sectors. However, a girl is still groomed to certain roles and expectations even in the most modern families. What’s worse, we accept them not even knowing that sky is the limit for our potential. Every single family and society needs to restructure how a girl is raised.
9. You travel so much and work so tirelessly, what do you do to nourish and recharge yourself?
I personally stay in touch with my spiritual side. Spirituality is pure science. Just like we need to brush and shower to keep our body clean and recharged we need real activities to cleanse our mind and soul. All the physical travel is meaningless if the journey inside doesn’t evolve. It is the journey inside that nourishes me, recharges me and energizes me. Besides, I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for a few years. It’s my stressbuster. And of course movies, spending time with family and friends are foolproof rejuvenation techniques
10. If you could have the ears of all the leaders of Nepal, what is the one message you would most want to tell them?
We may have made a lot of progress, but what more needs to be done? First, we need to change our national attitude. I remember in my younger years we always read, learnt, heard ‘Nepal is a small country, poor country, with xyz problems.’ That has been ruining it for everyone. Today, the young generation are either being produced for consumption as cheap labours or for western market. It’s difficult to come across youth who see a bright future for themselves in their own country. I’m not against anyone deciding to live or work in a different country but it should be an empowered choice not a helpless way out. So this would be my message- First, start communicating that we are a brilliant country with amazing potential where everyone can fit prosperously. Then with local partnership identify avenues and invest in utilizing the youth energy in a way that pumps our economy.