Only the sky’s the limit for 10 Nepali women (With Images)

March 7th, 2009 - 4:18 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 7 (IANS) Till a few years ago, Nepali women were not allowed to inherit parental property, undergo an abortion or even go abroad without the consent of their husbands.

But after a series of sweeping changes that transformed the world’s only Hindu kingdom into a secular republic where women are striving to make their voices heard, an unusual group is aiming for the sky.

It is a mixed clutch of young women: a bowling champion, a journalist, a beautician, a homemaker, a student and diverse others. But the 10 have one thing in common: climbing Mount Everest.

Last year, they created mountaineering history by summiting the world’s highest peak. Come spring, they will embark on a three-year adventure during which they plan to climb the remaining seven highest mountains in seven different continents.

“After climbing Mt. Everest last year, we realised that though the peak is one of the most cherished icons of Nepal, few Nepalis have a clear idea about how to scale it,” says Shailee Basnet, a journalist with a Nepali magazine who was part of the successful Everest expedition.

“So this year, the 10 of us have come together to form Global Inclusive Adventure, which will provide a platform to other aspiring young mountaineers.”

As part of the drive to establish the new organisation and promote Nepal worldwide as a tourism destination, the group - in which the youngest is 18 and the oldest 31 - begins its long, hard adventure from August to climb the other highest peaks in the world, starting from Mt. Elbrus in Russia and ending with Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The other peaks are Mt. Aconcagua in South America, Mt. McKinley in North America, Mt. Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Mt. Kosciusko in Australia and Mt. Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia.

The three-year expedition, which needs an enormous amount of money and training, has a mission statement. It is meant to draw world attention to women and youth and the change that they can usher in.

It also highlights the secret of success in any society: inclusiveness. Toward this, the 10 women come from different districts and different communities.

“Nepal is known globally for its high Himalayan ranges and diverse communities,” says Prachanda Man Shrestha, chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board that is the group’s promotional partner. “Sir Edmund Hillary became a global hero by climbing Mt. Everest. Now we hope for exposure for Nepal’s own people.”

The climbers say the most daunting challenge they face is raising funds: for flights around the world, equipment and logistics. Besides asking the airlines operating in Nepal for assistance, they would also be approaching Alpine clubs, mountaineering-related industries and even businesses named after Mt. Everest for sponsorship.

Japanese Junko Tabei, who was the first woman to summit the 8,848m Everest as well as the seven other tallest peaks in the world, is the group’s inspiration.

“The success of their ambitious project will send out a strong message to the world,” Shrestha says. “Our women are not passive, they are not sitting behind.”

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