“I want to use trekking as a way to do good,” says 2016 LEADer, Sabina.
This post was written by Bidhyalaxmi Maharjan, Women LEAD’s Communication Intern
Each year, Nepal’s stunning Himalayan mountain range and rich cultural diversity lure thousands of tourists to visit the country. It’s not uncommon for Nepal to be featured in the top list of travel destination on international travel sites.The picture tourism industry portrays is fascinating. From trekking picturesque mountain ranges to meeting people from all around the world,this lifestyle is all too appealing for many youths who dream of pursuing a career in Nepal’s tourism field.
2016 LEADer Sabina is one of them. From a young age, Sabina’s uncle, a trekking guide, would share stories of his profession with her and growing up around the tourist city of Boudhha, she would often interact with many tourists. All of this inspired her to become a trekking guide. But her motivation to pursue this career is not merely limited to adventure. “I want to use trekking as a way to do good to people, and not just for fun.
Sabina’s dream career might seem different, but it’s not unheard of. Many trekkers, especially female trekkers, have used the profession as a way to bring about positive change. Professional mountaineer Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, for example, was awarded National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year 2016 for her efforts in supplying relief materials in remote Himalayan regions after the 2015 Earthquakes.
Sherpa Akita are role models for young women like Sabina, who want use their passion for trekking to help people. As a trekking guide, Sabina hopes that she can reach isolated villages and teach individuals about important issues such as child labor, trafficking, deforestation, and polygamy. “While going trekking we go to remote places and come across different people. I want to share the knowledge I have with other people, so that they can make their life better,” she says.
Yet gender stereotypes in Nepal greatly limit what roles women and girls can have in tourism. “Trekking is a really challenging sector for girls. When girls spend night away from home, people tend to think of her negatively,” says Sabina. “You don’t really picture a girl leading a group of trekkers. They think it’s a man’s job.”
What Sabina says is true. According to the 2015 Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Mangement (NATHM) Souvenir, there are only 344 certified female tourist guides and 207 certified female trekking guides so far, whereas the number of certified male tourist and trekking guides is 3,183 and 12,337 respectively.
Tourism has the potential to drive economic growth in Nepal. More than four percent of Nepal’s GDP comes from tourism and the number is expected to increase in the coming years. But in order to continue developing Nepal’s tourism sector, it will be critical to uplift the status of women and girls as well. Studies have found that women are often relegated to the lowest paid or lowest status jobs and perform most of the unpaid work in family-run businesses. They also earn approximately 10 to 15 percent than their male counterpart.
More needs to be done to make sure they are on equal footing as men in the industry. Visionary girls like Sabina are proof that women can lead change in Nepal’s tourism sector. But until we encourage more women to take on leadership roles and value their work as equal as males, Nepal will be missing out on all they can bring to the field.