Three Sisters Making the World a Better Place
Motivated by stories of frustration from female adventurers who want to explore the beauty of Nepal, but feel restricted because of their gender, three enterprising sisters decided to rise to the challenge of establishing an adventure trekking company that would be run by women, for women. In the early 1990s, when the sisters’ plans started to take shape, it was unheard of for a Nepalese woman to guide a trek, and certainly a female-run trekking company was considered beyond impossible – but not for the Chhetri sisters, Lucky, Dicky and Nicky.
From small beginnings, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking has reached out to empower Nepalese women desperate to improve their lives and the lives of their families, and in so doing they have put Nepal on the map of responsible tourism with their award-winning mountain trekking program. In recognition of their achievements, 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking was named as one of the winners of the Ashoka’s Changemaker Geotourism Challenge, which focuses on a global search for tourism initiatives that preserve, sustain and enhance local culture. This endorsement is a milestone in the sisters’ chosen career, as it serves as an encouragement for more Nepalese women to become economically self-reliant, confidently taking their place in the community.
Over the past eight years, more than 600 women have been trained by 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking. Around 80 of those women work directly for 3 Sisters as guides and staff, with the rest using their skills in various tourism related jobs. In comparison to the Nepali average annual income of US$240, the women working for 3 Sisters earn in excess of US$1200. This enables them to pay for further education of siblings, while family medical expenses can be covered, and some even go on to start businesses of their own. Lucky Chhetri, co-founder of 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, notes that women who have benefited from their training, show visible changes in their level of confidence and independence, as well as their professional skills. They have found that by educating a woman, family members and friends are indirectly educated too.
In addition to establishing their successful business, Lucky, Dicky and Nicky Chhetri have founded the local non-government organization (NGO), Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN) to address the problem of inequality of women in Nepal. Their motto is “Empowering Women of Nepal – a local NGO dedicated to improving the world one woman at a time”. And that is exactly what they are doing. Their programs include: Women’s Trekking Guide Training; Women’s Advanced Training; Child Labor Rescue; and Mobile Training. Of these, the Child Labor Rescue stands out as a heart-rending reminder that, although child labor is illegal in Nepal, it is still practiced on a large scale. The program aims to ensure that the popular Annapurna Trekking Route becomes a child-labor free trekking route. Many children are sold into slavery by their poverty-stricken families and spend up to fifteen hours a day performing menial and back-breaking chores at hotels, restaurants and in homes of wealthier people. EWN provides support for children who have been rescued from child labor, many of whom are cared for and educated at EWN’s children’s home in Pokhara. EWN also enlists the support of government bodies, local community leaders and communities in fighting against child labor practices.
Certainly, the three Chhetri sisters of 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking are making a huge difference in the lives of many Nepalese women.