We believe that when women come together, great things can happen. Groups of women supporting each other through challenges and celebrations can be an incredibly powerful experience. That’s what our women only Everest Base Camp Trek is all about.
Our women only groups are a coming together of women both here and in Nepal. It’s an opportunity to inspire and create real change. Through these women only treks, you will share experiences and make friendships that will change the way you view the world and yourself.
Take on Nepal have been leading the way for many years in the area of training and hiring female guides. We understand the importance of and of the need to support women who are often forced into early marriages or trafficked into brothels in India and the middle east. The women guides of Take on Nepal all come from remote villages where to break free of cultural expectation is very difficult.
Take on Nepal has provided dozens of young women well paid work, training and an education. We would love for you to join one of our treks to Everest Base Camp, you will not only have the most incredible experience imaginable, you will also be supporting the young and very brave women who are choosing a different path, our team of females guides work alongside their male counterparts. Book your spot on one of our Women Only Treks.
Besides giving them a steady income, the job also provides the girls a ticket out of early marriage and makes them less vulnerable to traffickers. Our co-founder Som explains, “Traffickers come into the villages promising a better life to the girls’ families. These promises turn out to be a lie, and the girls end up in horrific situations.”
He adds, “By educating, empowering and employing the young girls and women in remote villages in Nepal, I know we can end the very real issue of human trafficking.”
Bimmaya Tamang, a trekking guide employed by Take On Nepal, is a testament to that aim. The 23-year-old is the youngest of six daughters and the only one not to marry young. Instead, she is using her trekking income to pay her way through college and support her recently widowed mother.
Our founder Som lives in Cairns in north Queensland, however he was born and grew up in Batase, 50 kilometres east of Kathmandu. Like very many similar villages in Nepal, the people of Batase largely live as subsistence farmers, with children spending most of their time on farming and household work from a young age. Understandably, education in these communities is not traditionally a high priority simply because it does not put food on the table.
For girls, education is an even lower priority. Consistent with Nepalese culture, children in this environment marry at a very young age. After a wedding, the bride joins her husband’s family to live and work with them. Unfortunately, in recent decades, tens of thousands of young Nepalese girls have been sent to India to work and earn a basic income for their families. Unknown to their families, many of these girls are sold into brothels.
From a very young age, Som, with alertness way beyond his years, realised that many of the girls who returned from India were not well, and that many of them died within a few years. Some did not return at all. He also recognised that the men who came to the village to recruit young women were not nice people and seemed to be taking advantage of their parents’ naivety.
As a ten or eleven-year-old, Som packed a small bag and, without telling his parents, followed a man from Batase who had family in Kathmandu. He was promised that this family would adopt him, but instead they enslaved him. He escaped and returned to Batase after a couple of years, where he met his newborn brother, Dinesh.
However, by now Som was determined that he (and his siblings) needed an education, and that that wasn’t going to happen in Batase, so he left for Kathmandu again. He worked as a labourer, then a trekking porter and eventually a trekking guide. It was in this work that he learnt to speak English and Japanese, and parts of other languages. Ultimately, Som decided he wanted to see more of the world, ending up in Cairns where he continued his education while working, sending money back to his family and doing some initial fundraising for Batase.
While studying at university, Som decided to set up a formal charity with the initial aim of improving the school in Batase to provide more than just a basic primary-level education to the children of the village. The ultimate aim was to improve the prospects of these young people – boys and girls – and to reduce the need for girls to be sent away to India (or, increasingly, the Middle East and Eastern Europe) to earn money.
So it was that Friends of Himalayan Children was born in 2008. The charity funded new classrooms and the hiring of teachers, expanding the school’s capability from Grade 3 to Grade 8 and, later, to Grade 10. A hostel was also built to provide housing to children from even more remote villages for whom travelling to school was impractical. This accommodation became even more important after the 2015 earthquake which left many of these children as orphans or with only one parent. (The original school and hostel were both destroyed in the earthquake, the charity’s funds have been used to replace them in the period since.)
But Som wasn’t done yet.
Also while at university, he noticed the growing number of programs offering young people the chance to travel to a developing country and work as a volunteer, for a fee. He decided that he could offer similar programs in support of his charity, but providing better value to both the volunteers and the recipients of their work. Out of that, Take on Nepal was born.
He then saw another opportunity. He noticed that many of the people travelling to Nepal to do volunteer work would stay on for a trekking holiday. Having already been a trekking guide, he knew what was involved and added numerous trekking options to what Take on Nepal was offering.
This, in turn, created another opportunity: to train and hire graduates of the Batase school – including young women, who traditionally have not worked as either porters or guides. Providing them with well-paid work is helping those people to go to university in Kathmandu and will very soon see the graduation of Batase’s first ever bachelor degree recipients.
In short, Som’s determination and leadership has led to the creation of a charity supporting his village of Batase, the expansion (and rebuilding) of a school and hostel in the village and the establishment of a volunteering and trekking company that now provides work and further education for the school’s graduates, nurturing young women and men as a new generation of leaders.
And he’s done all of this while building his own personal life in Cairns, including raising three young children with his partner Susan.
(Global leadership Fellow)
Tania Verbeeck’s documentary Women Take on Nepal has just won the best documentary at the Sony Film Festival for 2021.
In October 2019 Tania Verbeeck hiked to Everest Base Camp with an all-women’s support crew … and her camera.
Tania is a good friend of FHC. She, and a group of women, did the hike with Take on Nepal (TON), a trekking company run by Som Tamang and his wife Susan Devitt. The aim of TON is to provide career opportunities beyond FHC’s care, particularly for women. Tania is a professional marketer and videographer. With her camera she filmed her experiences, and those of the other women and guides on the trek. When she got home she found she had enough material to tell a story and so she did. The result is an award winning documentary called Women Take on Nepal. Some of the women highlighted in the film came up through FHC’s hostel.
The film articulates beautifully the difficulties and limitations confronting women in a very traditional and patriarchal regional Nepal. Som and Susan are doing something about that and Tania’s film explains how.
Tania wanted to use this film as a big-screen fund-raiser for FHC but COVID has made that very difficult. Part of the acclaim for the film coming her way is from Sony. She is a finalist in their film festival and they are allowing us to view the film here: https://filmfestival.sony.com.au/
Enjoy the film and if you would like to make a donation to FHC, visit https://www.f-hc.org/donate-to-fhc
On a recent Everest Base Camp Trek, our group learned about the importance of this work for our team of young female guides, one of our group members Kirsty Nancarrow shared the following:
“This morning we have been touched by the stories of two of our guides, who are extremely strong advocates for the empowerment of women in Nepal. 18yo Rita Tamang was forced to marry at 13. Last year, she won a competition run by the World Organisation for the Future of Nepalese Women, beating 200 others with her presentation, ‘No more child marriages’. She asked to join Take On Nepal earlier this year and has now been able to pay her college fees and graduate. Rita now wants to study social work so she can continue changing the lives of other women. Bimmaya Tamang, 18, is the youngest of six sisters and the only one to refuse marriage. She became the ‘man’ of the house after her father was killed, but was determined to continue her education and fight to get her father’s land back. Thanks to support from the Friends of Himalayan Children and Take On Nepal, Bimmaya is in grade 12 and working as a trekking guide as often as she can. We are totally inspired by these trailblazers and the other female guides on our Everest Base Trek. This journey was never about bucket lists, it was always about celebrating the change that is happening in Nepal, thanks to these brave women and their mentor, Som Tamang.View More Information About Our Why Choose Us ...
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