Seven Summits Women Team , world first female group to climb the highest peak in each continent, now in a mission to empower young female survivors of sex trafficking by helping them become licensed trekking guides in Nepal.
This 3 months training program based in Kathmandu is led by Everest climbers Maya Gurung and Shailee Basnet. A decade ago mountaineering started as a personal challenge for us. But a few years ago when we met the young survivor sisters, lives were about to change. They found a platform, we found our purpose.
The survivor sisters were tricked into trafficking during their early teens in the pretense of education or jobs in India. One of them was only 12. They fought everything from forced sex work, malnutrition, torture to even prison time. Yet at such tender ages they found courage to make an escape, risking their lives.
Once back in Nepal, prestigious non-profit working against trafficking called 'Shakti Samuha' provided them protection, shelter and rehabilitation. However, because of lack of education and job skills, the survivors were stuck in low-paying jobs without a prospect for a career or growth.
Moreover, the society held stigma against them. They were yet again stuck in another trap.
Starting 2014, Seven Summits Women Team started providing them holistic training that helped them heal, empower and find a career in the trekking industry.
Three survivors have now earned their trekking guide license. The young girl once trafficked at 12, is now a kick-ass 22 year old mountain guide. Hear her testimony:
Miss TK, Freelance Trekking & Mountain Guide, 22:
'I was a petite young village girl that no one expected anything from. Thanks to the Seven Summits Women Team , after their guidance, today I guide western clients in the Himalayan peaks. Previously I used to make less than $100 in a month, now I make that in a few days. I'm making more money than anyone around me can ever imagine. Today I support my family, and send my siblings to school. I feel confident about my future for the first time in my life. People in my village used to look down on me, now young girls say they want to become like me. I cannot wait to give the same opportunity to younger survivor sisters. This is true empowerment.'
Shakti Samuha shares with us that in their decades of work, this is one of their best success stories ever.
Following the great result of the pilot training, and a big demand, Seven Summits Women Team is launching Female Guide Training for Trafficking Survivors 2019 .
In this 3 months program, the trainees will get extensive language, leadership and outdoor training to help them earn their trekking guide license.
Vision: To provide complete economic empowerment to young female trafficking survivors through employment in the trekking industry.
Mission: Providing all set of pre-requisite support and training to help trafficking survivors become licensed trekking guides and provide them job placements.
Budget: It costs USD 3000 to train one participant. Our goal is to train at least 10 women this year, honestly preferably 25. We are keeping a modest goal of USD 21000 for this campaign to get started. Hopefully we get there soon and raise more so that we can reach more :-)
Outcome: 100% job placement for successful participants.
How it all started
In the year 2008, a team of Nepali women geared up to climb Mt Everest. Despite several socio-economic challenges the team became the most successful female group to scale the highest peak. Following the grand success, members of the team embarked on a mission to climb the highest mountain in each continent. In 2014 ‘Seven Summits Women Team’ became the world’s first female group to climb the 7 Summits.
The team has been covered internationally by The BBC, ESPN, Associated Press, the United Nations to name a few. The team had an audience in the White House in 2014 and has received one of the highest civilian medal decoration from the President of Nepal.
In November 2014, Seven Summits Women Team, started training a group of young female survivors of women trafficking . Our dear friend Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, mountaineer and founder of the US non-profit Courageous girls , had selected the group of survivors and promised to take them to Everest Base Camp. She reached out to us in order to train the girls.
Silvia ended up taking the survivors to Everest Base Camp, not once but twice. And Maya and Shailee continued mentoring beyond the original scope of the project because they saw true potential here.
Silvia brought a group of powerful tech women from the US who were both support and inspiration to the women. Together we all became unstoppable. However, in 2015 we faced a major challenge, a major earthquake. Our dear friend Bojana Novakovic came rushing for help and started helping us rebuild schools in Maya's home district. This helped us continue both our education and empowerment work. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today we support both schools and empowerment projects as both are necessary to fight trafficking. In 2019, we, Maya and Shailee are dedicated to train another batch of young female survivors.
Ms. Maya Gurung hails from Sindhupalchok district, which is the focus of Seven Summits Women Team work. Sindhupalchok has been infamous as a district of trafficking for decades. Her dream is to change that reputation by helping both trafficking survivors regain control of their life as well as empower young rural women for better future. She has been actively working towards this end since 2008 when she became the first woman from her district to climb Everest.
Ms. Shailee Basnet led the historic Seven Summits Women Team that became the first female group in the world to scale the highest peak in each continent.
Together Maya and Shailee have been leading education and empowerment projects back at Maya's home village. Various stakeholders and trekking companies have expressed commitment to hire female guides trained by the duo. The program is designed based on the strength of their decade long experience, and network.
This Women's Day, help us share the blessings of the Himalayas, the joy of womanhood and the power of true women empowerment. Please share and support.