Founded by Nepalese-Australian Som Tamang, this Cairns-based company hopes to empower young women by employing them as trekking guides on tours to various parts of Nepal, including Everest Base Camp, Poon Hill and the Annapurna Circuit.
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. 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 19-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.
In December this year, Take On Nepal will be organising a women-only tour to Everest Base Camp. The aim is to raise money to set up a new training and employment facility in Kathmandu to support more vulnerable women in Nepal.
More a Facebook group than a formal tour operator, this is the first, and currently only, female-led travel group in Kerala. It was founded three years ago by 32-year- old Sajna Ali, who got the idea after friends pulled out of a trip at the last minute. Undeterred, Sajna went on her own, and that solo adventure gave her the confidence to start organising tours for women.
“Our tours are focused on women whose travel options are restricted due to the perception that it’s expensive or unsafe [for solo travellers],” says Sajna, who crafts itineraries for women from all walks of life. Before organising each tour, Sajna travels to the destination to make arrangements for transport, accommodation and to plan the itinerary. While she leads many of these tours, Sajna now has a team of friends who help.
In 2019, the group will be planning their first international tours to Bali and Georgia.
“Appooppanthaadi means milkweed in Malayalam,” explains Sajna. “We hope our group will offer women the freedom to fly with the wind and live out their travel dreams.”
Determined to dismantle traditional views that women were not suited for public positions such as guiding, Nguyen Thi Huong Lien founded a company led by female guides on motorcycles.
Now, five years later, I Love Vietnam employs over 100 female staff and offers food and cultural tours across major Vietnamese cities. Because the guides have an insider’s knowledge of their cities, visitors get off the well-trodden tourist trail and into suburban neighbourhoods. Besides getting a unique insight into a destination, you’re also lending a helping hand – 10% of the company’s revenue goes towards charitable organisations.
In August 2018, the company expanded its operations into Laos and will be setting up in Cambodia later this year. Known as the I Love Asia tour, it maintains Lien’s vision of a socially minded company run and led by an all-women team.
Standing at 3,726m, Mount Rinjani is a main draw for visitors to Lombok. While most of the treks up the mountain are conducted by male guides, this tour company was founded precisely to offer local women a chance to supplement their income.
“Many village women were dependent on their husbands’ income as porters or trekking guides,” explains founder Sukatni, who set up the company in 2000. “By employing them as trekking guides, I hope to elevate their role in the community and give them a sense of independence.”
Even as the community recovers from the August 2018 earthquake, Sukatni has opened up several new tours, such as day trips to the villages of Senaru and Sebalun in north Lombok and a 2D1N trek of Pergasingan Hill, east of the island.
WRITTEN BY: Kirsty Nancarrow (Nepal), Vanessa Tai (Lombok), Sneha Thomas (Kerala), Lina Gedvilaite (Vietnam)
This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine