Female Leadership Academy
Sustainable livelihoods. Dignified Careers. Empowered Lives!
‘I was trafficked at the age of 13. My trafficker said I will get good education in India. It is a long story how I escaped from that hell. When I returned I was only 13. I was weak, poor and the society looked at me with pity or disgrace. I met the Seven Summits Women Team when I was 19 years old. At that time, I was scared for my future. Today my life has completely transformed. I guide western clients on Himalayan peaks. I make more money than anyone around me can imagine. And young girls in my village tell me they want to be like me. I have found strength, financial freedom and true dignity. Because of the Seven Summits sisters I saw a path and I’m here today. It is now time for me to show the path to my other survivor sisters.”
In late 2014, the Seven Summits Women Team started training a group of young females who were survivors of sex trafficking. The young women were trafficked to India in their early teens or even earlier. The series of their epic battle continued from one horror to another: running away from their captors, finding a way back to Nepal, social stigma back at home, the emotional-physical-social recovery, legal battles, and recovery of confidence and self-esteem.
After facing such major challenges at a very young age, they were stuck in low-paying jobs that did not promise any career or growth. Their social standing did not offer them dignity or agency.
All of this was because, in addition to their struggle, they missed proper education and lacked job skills. Hence, we started the program with a vision of providing a sustainable livelihood, dignified careers, and empowered lives.
We started with two small pilots. Our trainees from these have graduated as licensed trekking guides, trail runners, high-altitude climbers, sports climbers, and training leaders.
Female Leadership Academy
Based on the success of the pilot batches we launched “Female Leadership Academy” in September 2022.
Female Leadership Academy is a multi-year training and mentorship program. We believe empowerment in today’s time is not possible without sustainable livelihood. It takes education, confidence, and specific skills to provide such empowerment to young marginalized women coming from challenging backgrounds.
Similarly, we believe that the outdoors is the best platform to empower. When a person can climb a mountain they never thought they could, it changes them as a person. Every single participant in our many hikes and training has remarked that after climbing the real mountain, they have found the strength to climb any metaphorical mountain in their life.
Our program is developed based on these principles with the following vision, mission, and goal-
Vision- Empower the most vulnerable section of young Nepali girls through economic independence. Help them to build a dignified career so that they can be leaders of their own lives.
Mission- Provide long-term mentorship and training to survivors of girl trafficking, abuse survivors, and high-risk girls. In the first phase/year, the program will provide the foundation skills required to build a prolific career in any industry viz- confidence building, foreign language lessons, and career exposure among others. In the second phase/year, provide industry-specific training. Finally, provide job recommendations and placement.
Goal- Build a female leadership academy that provides long-term training and mentorship programs to survivors, and high-risk as well as marginalized young women.
Phase I – Foundation Training
In the year 2022-2023 cycle, around 150 girls and young women benefitted from the foundation training program. Trainees included young women at five different centers in Sindhupalchok district and two shelter homes for survivors of trafficking and various abuses based in Kathmandu Valley.
The first year of the program, Foundation Training focuses on the skills required to build any career which includes the following-
- English Language skills
- Public speaking and interaction
- Computer training
- Exposure to various careers through motivational sessions with successful female professionals.
- High-altitude local guide training
109 trainees trekked to Jugal Base Camp in February 2023 (Watch video below). Over 40 selected trainees are currently undergoing the career training program which focuses on building careers in the tourism industry.
Phase II – Career Training
There are very few female climbers and trekking/mountaineering guides in Nepal. However, as more females and families are traveling, there is a big demand for female guides. Many prefer female guides for their dependability and professionalism. There are close to two thousand trekking and expedition companies in Nepal. But the number of active female guides is probably less than a hundred. Hence, we aspire to build future generations of female guides in various outdoor sectors. Therefore, in the second phase of the program, over 40 trainees capable and interested in building a career as outdoor guides have been selected for advanced training.
23 are currently taking part in Guide License Training conducted by Nepal Mountain Academy in collaboration with the Nepal Tourism Board and UNDP.
In addition, the second phase includes the following components-
- Kathmandu-based training- outdoor and English language
- Training certification from professional institutes
- Water guide introduction
- Job recommendation
- Job placement
Participants willing to develop careers in other industries will be mentored in partnership with related organizations. Eventually, the goal is to build an academy that will provide the program to all interested young women from rural or marginalized backgrounds.