Women on top
Pujan Acharya- Pujan worked as a human rights activist in Dolakha. She had a passion for sports from early on and used to play with men for there were no women players in her village. An accomplished volleyball player and marathon runner, Pujan, 25, holds several awards for competition at the district Level. But that was not enough for someone who grew up at the foot of Rolwaling Himalayas. She gained her first mountaineering experience in 2003 when she completed Female Outdoor Leadership training. Finally she made it to the summit of Mt. Everest on 22nd of May 2008. She enjoyed a different taste of Everest and adventure as she skydived in the Everest region on 17th October, 2009 from 29,300 ft. During the cabinet meeting of Nepal Government held at Kalapatthar (5240 m), she actively participated as a venue manager.
Pema Diki Sherpa- Pema Diki, 22, is one of the three girls born to a struggling couple who moved to Kathmandu from Dolakha. Two years before joining the expedition, a chance to trek in Gosainkunda enchanted this acupuncture assistant and left her with the desire to gain more climbing experience. She achieved what she had long dreamt for when she bowed her head to Cholmolungma. She has great faith in education and as a child dreamt of being a teacher. The team has been conducting educational interaction in different parts of the country, sharing the experience of struggles and lessons learnt during the expedition, motivating students to believe in their dreams. With this program her childhood dream became reality.
Chunu Shrestha- Hailing from a poor Kathmandu family, Chunu began working to help support her family while she was just a sixth grader. Despite the financial hardships, she finished high school and started pursuing her education in Bachelors of Arts. When she heard about Susmita Maskey's summit attempt in 2005, she became inspired by the possibility of succeeding in adventure tourism to support her family. With FIWSE she was able to nurture her passion for the outdoors that she dreamt about. At 27 years of age, she reached the Everest summit.
Asha Kumari Singh- A 24-year-old student, Asha comes from Danuwar community from Meghrail, Mahottari. She comes from a deeply patriarchal society and the only reason she was educated is because her grandmother thought her the ugliest amongst her sisters, and was convinced nobody would want to marry and look after her. Asha however was not worried about her looks but coming from the flatlands of Terai, was always curious about high mountains. She came to Kathmandu for higher education and got an opportunity to join the Female Outdoor Leadership training in the Annapurnas in 2004. Given her background, she challenged conventions and impressed naysayers when she started climbing.
When the talk turns to climbing and mountains a fact that becomes strikingly obvious is that legendary, world famous Everest summiteers are predominantly MALE. Many Nepali men have successfully climbed Mt. Everest, and a few of them have even got their names inscribed in the Guinness Book of World Records, only a handful of Nepali women, 7 to be precise, had ascended Mt. Everest until 2006. That embarrassing figure was going to change forever after a team of ten courageous Nepali women decided to face the challenge to scale the mountain that is not only known for its staggering height but also for being life-threatening. But these women dared to risk their lives and their fortitude paid off when they planted Nepal's flag on the top of Everest on 25th May 2008.
WAVE talked to these women extraordinaire about issues that are as bold as they themselves are.
Asha Kumari Singh: Despite coming from the Terai region, I always use to dream of climbing the mountains. But I knew it was almost impossible for that dream to turn into reality. But when I came to know about the formation of women's team to climb Mt. Everest and I joined the team right away.
Chunu Shrestha: Though I was born in Kathmandu in a typical Newar family where hardly anyone knew anything about adventure sports, I always was attracted to the majestic mountains that surrounded the valley and was just waiting for the right time to put forth my feet on the mountain and that happened when I learned about the formation of the first ever Nepali women's team to conquer the top of the world.
Nimdoma Sherpa: I have been in love with adventure sports since forever and that's why I used to go for trekking, canyoning, bunjee jumping, wall climbing from the very beginning. But ultimately I wanted to conquer Mt. Everest. When I first heard about the women's Everest expedition, I knew such an opportunity would not come again.
Did you ever feel like, it was too difficult and felt like giving up?
Asha: With nine strong-headed and helpful girls around, we barely had time to think about all the difficulties.
How did it feel to be on top of the World's highest mountain?
Asha: I felt as if I was the tallest person on earth. I was so ecstatic on our team's unimaginable feat that I ended up dancing with my fellow summiteers.
Chunu: I was one of the last ones from the team to reach the top, so, I was getting impatient and nervous all the way but once I stepped on the summit, suddenly I felt very close to this imaginary superpower that most people would like to call 'God'. That feeling can't be simply described in plain words; that was sheer heavenly feeling that I would love to share with my grandchildren someday.
Nimdoma: I felt I was going back to those scenes of a TV serial called 'Om Nama Shivaya'- that I used to watch on TV when I was small- where gods would fly in the clouds and live in the mountains. I told myself "This must be heaven!"
As women, we are often undermined by our male counterparts. What message do you have for such men who are always skeptical of women's abilities?
Chunu: Sexual discrimination is rife everywhere - rural areas, cities, our neighborhoods and even our own homes. For those men, who don't want to see women progressing, I want to say- look into yourself and ask yourself, how your life would be like without the presence of a woman, whether in the form of a mother, sister, friend, wife or daughter.
Nimdoma: I want to ask them to let women do what they want and support them if you ever want to see this country prospering
Climbing Mt.Everest is no easy feat. What next? Is there anything you want to achieve or conquer?
Asha: I want to be a mountain climbing instructor and am already working towards it. Besides I have my eyes set on finishing my Masters Degree and doing social work
Chunu: At the moment, I am helping my sister with her business. But I would love to do anything that sounds as exciting as climbing a mountain.
Nimdoma: Currently, I am working as a trekking guide and am also involved in wall climbing and rock climbing. So, I see my future in adventure sports.
Three things you hate about Nepali men in general.
Asha: Those men who think they are born with the right to drink excessively and beat their wives really annoy me. I hate men who spit in public places and who try to take maximum space in public transport as if they are the owners of the vehicles.
Chunu: Something I can't stand about Nepali men is the way they stare at women from top to bottom, in a very creepy way. Perverted men who try to touch you in crowded places puts me off. Also, I hate men who think it's cool to swear.
Nimdoma: I hate the dominating behavior of men over women. I absolutely abhor such men who try to get advantage of you in public transportation and who try to show off too much.
Except Shailee, all of you are unmarried. What three qualities do you find appealing in a man?
Chunu Shrestha: Supportive, encouraging and good looking.
Nimdoma: Tall, great sense of humor and loving.
Any guys that you have a crush on right now?
Asha: I have a habit of falling for any man who can do action scenes. But Jackie Chan is my favorite. I like Nima Rumba too; I think he is hot and very good looking.
Chunu: I am a Shah Rukh Khan devotee.
Nimdoma: I find Raju Lama very cute. I like Mingma Sherpa too but too bad, he is already married.
After your successful climb, do men look at you differently?
What is your take on pre-marital sex?
Asha: If it is safe, both mentally physically, then pre-marital sex shouldn't be a big issue. But you should always be cautious about pregnancy issues, HIV/AIDS and STDs.
Chunu: If both the partners are ready to do it then, there should be no reason for someone else to poke their nose into it. People have freedom to do what they want physically or mentally if it doesn't affect themselves and others.
*The other three team members are currently on climbing expedition and tours in Nepal and around the world.