The rise of women sherpas in nepal


Photo Credit: Niranjan Shrestha


Intervew with lucky, nicky and dicky

Can you describe the background (age, residence, demographic) of your average student?


Many of our female trainees are from remote areas of 53 districts of Nepal- out of 75 districts (excluding most plain areas and the far eastern region), age ranges between 18-35 years old. Many girls belong from a low level family of with no job opportunities and came to learn and earn for them to live independent life.


How does being trekking guide give your graduates a different life then they would have otherwise?


In our organizations, we have a variation of women working –meaning we welcome all religious, caste or educational background. We have graduates who have perused masters’ degree to some who haven’t been to school ever.  This job helps develop their self-confident and independent. In addition they get an opportunity to learn foreign language, chance to get explore to their own country and aboard as well. This professional helps our female guides to get along with many new foreign travelers and share their knowledge on history, geography, culture and many more.

This profession also helps women to be strong, bold, fit and healthy which wouldn’t have been possible in other profession. It is one of the good income professions for women. Being a trekking guide is a respectable profession now.


You mentioned that many of the women in your program are of low caste.


Yes, because Nepal is a country of multiple castes and still there is discrimination between upper caste and lower caste. Because of which lower caste people are more disadvantaged and underprivileged than the upper one. And our mission is to empower disadvantaged women. So that is the reason behind us having more women from backward community.


What does this mean in Nepal and what opportunities do these women have?


Before stepping in this organization, women were never considered to be a trekking guide. Now those women are into this field and are doing great a job. There are many more trekking agency’s running by women and demand for more women guide. Many women who were involved only in house hold chores or into pickle making or tailoring are now into adventure tourism.


How do you know if someone is a good applicant for your program? What qualities do they have?


Before the trekking training program we take an interview of girls and also see their qualification. But we choose participants especially on the basis of interview. They have following qualities:


·       quite physically fit

·       passion and interest to do something for themselves

·       hardworking

·       Discipline etc.


What do your guides have the most trouble learning?  


Our guides mostly have trouble with learning English. English language considers one of the most sophisticated languages here and our guide belongs to remote areas of Nepal where probably they mightn’t have learn and heard of English language so learning English is quite hard for them.

Why did you three decide to do this? What is your background?


 As our country Nepal has a patriarchal society where only men are in authority and women are just bounded within household works. So, our first and main vision was to empower girls through providing skills about trekking guide as only men were dominating on this field. And we know the potential our Nepali sisters, that if given a chance possibly they can do anything that a man can do.


So, with this vision we first established our company 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking in 1998 and became the first company to employ female guides in Nepal. Then we came out with an idea of providing training about trekking guide so we established an NGO; Empowering Women of Nepal in 1999 that only targets disadvantaged girls and women of remote places of Nepal and empower them through the skills provide during training. Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN) and 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking work in partnership to promote and empower women through adventure tourism.3 Sisters Adventure Trekking guarantees field experiences and employ the interested trainees on paid apprenticeship programs.


Lucky the elder sister did Master in Geography, Dicky and Nicky have Bachelor degree on business and all of us have additional course in many different areas.


Why do most students choose to be guides?


It is a free training and have paid apprenticeship program. It is a seasonal job; they can easily carry on their study. They learn language, and many other life skills which help on their study. Most of the girls are from remote areas and their parents couldn’t help them but if they work as a guide they can take care of their whole expenses. On the other hand : Guide is a leader, guardian, teacher, first aider – basically she is a professional where one have knowledge on various things like life skills, places, people, flora and fauna, to deal in the worst situation, and to be physically fit.

Any person can be guide and earn handsome money to establish their and their family lives, change the life style, educate them or pursue higher education. After many years of hardship, female guides are respected. So, I think these are the reasons behind the students chose to be guide.


Describe a typical trek.


Our office is based in Pokhara, on the lap of Annapurna Mountain. range, therefore the typical trek is to go in the Annapurna Mountain areas for a day hike to 20 days trek. As per our training policy, our trainees are first introduced to the trekking/walking as an assistant on the easy route due to the elevation reason and gradually they go for longer trekking in mountain areas.


What is the most discouraging aspect of your job or working with the students?


This job is really encouraging to all who are directly or indirectly linked with us. During the season time most of the students are busy with their exam which is difficult to fulfill the demand of the clients.


Are most students from the region or do they learn the routes in training?


Some students are from region but most of the student they learn the routes in practical training because 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking guarantees the on the job training for the field experience.


Why have most trekking guides and Sherpas been men historically?


As Nepal is a patriarchal country where in many societies men have authority over women in every sectors. And only men were sent to school and always active in any kind of involvement but women were bounded only within household works. And as men are considered more strong physically then women so most trekking guides and Sherpa’s been men historically, now this concept are changing.


How do local Nepalese respond to the program? What do they like or dislike?


I think good works are always appreciated by everyone. So, local Nepalese have really good respond towards us. At first they are amazed to hear about our works and influenced about how three Nepali sisters are doing such a great job. They like every work of ours, especially the way we empowered disadvantaged girls through trekking guide profession.

Where do most of your graduates go to work after completing your program?


As EWN and 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking works in partnership so, most of our graduates work in 3 Sisters Trekking company. And besides than that our graduates are also involved in tourism, adventure tourism and start business.


Where did you three grow up?


We grew up in Darjeeling; North-East part of India.


What prompted your interest in starting this trekking school?


We grew up in a big family. When our father expired on 1992, we were in a joint family. Our brothers were not responsible guardian like our father and we started missing him a lot. Then we decided to get away from there and we choose Pokhara as our destination. We started a guest house in Pokhara, in a tourist town.  All of sudden our business became popular because it was rare Nepali women run business by their selves.  We were enjoying meeting people and learned skills to improve our business. When we heard couple of young women were hassle by male guides during trekking. Then Lucky went to the Annapurna Base Camp to explore the possibilities of women guiding with the Basic Mountaineering knowledge. Lucky has also traveled to remote west Nepal and see the life of rural women. They are lack of education and other opportunity work so hard for nothing. They were very strong physically and fearless to do any activities because of their daily life.  So we thought if we can combine these two different activities may work and tried for many years. And now it is became a decent profession for Nepalese women.


Can you name one little known quality about each of you?


I think we all three sisters have same qualities and same vision. But if it has to be specific then I would say Nicky has the quality of administration and dedication towards work, Dicky has the quality of Public Relation and I Lucky has a leadership quality.