In Nepal, a social enterprise is employing a for-profit and nonprofit hybrid model to finance the country’s first and only women-led trekking agency.
Note, Nepal is ranked as one of the worst countries to be a female, and sits on the bottom of the Human Development Index, which measures for quality of life and the chance to improve one’s socio-economic status. Hence, to have a women-centric business, financed and led by women, is no small feat.
In the 1990s, three sisters, Lucky, Dicky and Nicy, from Darjeeling, India relocated to Pokhara in Nepal to start a guesthouse for visitors. Quickly they learned that only Nepalese men were taking foreigners into the Himalayas on treks. This posed a challenge for female travelers — and even some allegations of abuse surfaced. So the trio started Three Sisters Adventure Trekking where women would lead other women on treks in Nepal.
Instead of just running a business that pairs up foreigners with female Nepali guides, they also set up a non-profit called Empowering Women of Nepal, or EWN. The non-profit provides six months of free training to Nepali women interested in learning about mountaineering and the outdoors. To date more than 2,000 women from around the country have done the training program and many have continued on to become guides for the for-profit trekking business.
“Whether or not these women go on to become a guide, we feel it is a seed planted for them and future generations. We demonstrate that women are mentally, physically and emotionally as strong as men,” Lucky says.
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