Inner mountains are hard to climb.
Seeing the Everest trek advertised as empowering travel for women, I thought I’d better go before I get too rickety and humourless. It was good to be free, to fill up on pure air, be inspired and walk. I adore monasteries, singing, eating momos, watching Sherpa and their pack animals tackle the days with tenacity. With the challenge of altitude, appreciating the hard lives of others was ever present.
Project Didi helps young women who need protection from violence, sexual abuse and support to be self- determining. Climbing escarpments of fear, discrimination and repression is exhausting. Asha Nepal work tirelessly to help women who have no family support. I’m glad our donation really helps. Housemothers are kind. Solidarity and safety their strength.
Whilst Nepal’s sights and sounds are tantalising, a visual surprise around every Kathmandu corner, the real life of cultural constraints and customs makes a tattoo. Take your laundry for washing, there’s a brothel above… women with no choice. A lovely bangle is made by a family sitting on the dirt floor of their very hot hut. A beautiful carpet made by women in a shed, fibres and stale air for breath. A man selling a flute no one wants. He shouts his frustrations. Indelible memories of shrines and marigolds and at Asha house; hands inked in henna.
Our lady powered walking group were delightful, interesting, supportive, funny, energetic, grateful. A gang of Didis.
Ang Dami Sherpa spoke of running from Everest to Namche Bazaar. In May 2013 she was 3 months pregnant and won the women’s marathon challenge for a second time. Incredible as this feat is, she has recently lost her husband, runs a guest house, treks 4 hours to visit us, she is a gutsy gazelle and I’m in awe.
Kira Osborne, Board Member
A person of many quotes, Winston Churchill once said
“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”
At the beginning of 2020 Project Didi had all the plans! Our newly established board were confident in our strategic direction, our Women Empowering Women trips to Nepal had received promising feedback and were gaining exciting momentum with new additions in the pipeline, and our intention for public advocacy and awareness raising was lined up.
In February I said goodbye to our partner Asha Nepal and returned to home with every intention of returning to Nepal in October to lead one of our women's trips. This now seems like a lifetime ago, when COVID-19 was still the mystery virus, when hand sanitiser was fast becoming the world’s largest commodity, and when the idea of restricting international travel let alone interstate travel was incomprehensible.
We expanded our trips offering two new opportunities to travel to Nepal
We were thrilled to partner with Fernwood Tuggeranong, a female gym and health club in Canberra, to run a trip in March. We ran our first Women Empowering Women trip with nine women from across Australia. These trips provide valuable funding for critical care for survivors of trafficking and abuse, but they also are an opportunity for our community to gain an understanding of Nepal and the complexities facing women and girls through meeting Nepali community leaders, artisans and entrepreneurs. Travel with us in 2020! Read more about our trips over on our blog & sign up below to be the first to know about this year's trip.
We continued our strong partnerships in Nepal
We're proud to mark 5 years in our partnership with Asha Nepal. We supported the development of the growth of the women-led catering program with new women undertaking training. The women also landed a catering booking for a 5-day local government training session for over 30 people! Both our women's trips to Nepal enjoyed cooking alongside the women in their homes.
Women empowering women
It’s been a week since we waved goodbye to these 9 brilliant women who joined us on our women empowering women trip, making it the 7th trip we’ve taken to Nepal.
We’re grateful that they chose to travel this way. Through the trip's contribution to our work in Nepal and through the women-led organisations we support through our tourism, the trip opens opportunities for women and girls, who have experienced adversity, discrimination, trafficking and violence.
But who is empowering who? It is our intention that it goes both ways, that the trips are a shared learning experience.
You can think of it a bit like Nepal’s roads where everything and everyone is going all directions (with the occasional cow added into the mix!). Despite the different destinations, the shared journey is the fun bit!
Emerging unscathed from the Nepali traffic, here's what we learnt on our most recent trip.
“Amazing”, “spectacular,” and “sensational” were just a few of the words our Fernwood Tuggeranong trekking group used to describe their recent trip to Nepal with us.
Seeing Everest, learning to cook a traditional Nepali dinner and experiencing first hand the work being done to support survivors of trafficking and abuse were just some highlights.
We were blessed with perfect weather and the adventure kicked off with a trek along the first leg of the Everest Base Camp trek where the group got a taste of village life in remote areas of Nepal, spent a day in the traditional Sherpa trading centre of Namche Bazaar, and saw spectacular views of the Himalayas, including Everest and Lhotse.
Most had never travelled to Nepal and many hadn’t trekked, overcoming personal challenges they never thought possible, such as a fear of flying in small planes (we flew into Lukla to start the trek), walking along suspension bridges and completing a relatively challenging trek.
Back in Kathmandu the group spent time at our local partner, learning about the issues of trafficking and abuse in Nepal and the work being done to support survivors. We were also treated to a traditional Nepali lunch prepared by the team at our partner. Delicious!
The following day the group learnt how to cook a traditional Nepali dinner of dahl baht and vegetable curry in our partner's family based care homes, small family units for children who have survived trafficking or abuse with a mother who is a survivor herself. The cooking class is a recent Project Didi initiative to provide income generation opportunities for the mothers. A visit to the home also allowed the group to see first hand the positive impact family based care has for survivors. Read more about our family based care.
Other highlights included tours of the UNESCO World heritage Bouddhanath, Durbar Square and the Ason Tole markets in Kathmandu.
The tour was a huge success and judging by the feedback enjoyed by all - so much so that plans are already underway for another Fernwood Tuggeranong tour next year!
We would like to thank Fernwood Tuggeranong and the participants for making the trip so enjoyable and memorable, enabling us to raised funds to continue our work in Nepal and most importantly raise awareness of the issue of trafficking.
Words & images: Leonie Keogh, Project Didi co-founder and Board Member