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Published: January 28th 2009
"Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN) - a Nepali NGO dedicated to improving the world, one woman at a time"
EWN is an NGO that was established in 1999 by 3 Nepalese sisters - Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri. The organisation's goal is to improve the lives of disadvantaged women in Nepal by training them to become trekking guides and porters in Nepal.
Women in Nepal slave in their households and fields day after day carrying heavy loads as well as looking after their family but carry out this work thanklessly and without pay due to the caste system, the pressure of dowry arrangements and the guilt of being a burden to their family....simply because they were born as a female in Nepal. This results in Nepali women being underpriviledged, uneducated, illiterate, discrimimated against, victims of physical & mental abuse and lacking in self-confidence.
However, thanks to EWN and 3 Sisters, these organisations are working together to empower women through adventure tourism. There are several training programs in place to provide trekking training to Nepali women to improve their thinking skills and foster independent thought. They learn English, first aid and trekking skills such as map reading and trip planning, as well as all about Nepal's flora, fauna, geography, culture and religion and are also taught rock & ice climbing and mountaineering. Furthermore, they learn about environmental awareness issues involving water sanitation, crop rotation, waste management and the use of alternative fuel sources to firewood to help curb deforestation. The women can then take these skills back to both their own villages as well as teaching others about these ecological skills in the tea houses they visit along the trails while trekking.
I feel this is an amazingly simple but extremely necessary and effective concept. The idea of empowering the local Nepali women while also providing safety and peace of mind to foreign, female trekkers by providing female porters and guides (and ultimately friends) I personally find, truly fascinating.
EWN's mission statements:
- to help foster the growth of independent, self-sufficient, decision-making women, by encouraging self-empowerment.
- to provide advanced skill training in adventure tourism, promoting gender equality in the workforce and economic independence for women.
- to declare the Annapurna Trekking Route a child-labour free trekking route
- to help deprived communities in the mountainous regions of Western Nepal by providing rural women with the knowledge and skills needed to earn an income.
I was astounded to find out that only since 2005 has it become legal for (a) women of Nepal under the age of 35 to apply for a passport without their husband's or parents' permission (b) inheritance rights to property to be safeguarded for unmarried women and (c) that the rural practice of exiling women to the cowshed during their period was made illegal - unbelievable.
Having seen first hand the hard, manual work carried out by women of all ages here in Pokhara together with the staggeringly heavy loads they carry in huge baskets up steep, uneven mountain tracks, I consider the work of EWN essential.
Find out more at www.3sistersadventure.com/EWN or www.globalgiving.co.uk
Big thanks to Catriona a Scottish volunteer at EWN who told me all about their great work and especially my local guides Soru and Shita for some great trekking and special memories in Nepal.
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