Women empowerment is a long way to go in Nepal. However, companies like Royal Mountain Group are taking leaps that may seem small, but go miles for the women who work there. Women in the Lead is one of the social ventures coming out of the Group and is led by the women who work there. Women in the Lead hosts various events to raise awareness about women empowerment.
Active member of Women in the Lead Ms. Sabita Khadka, who is also the Marketing and Travel Consultant shares her thoughts on the women’s empowerment and gaps in the tourism industry and how the Women in the Lead initiative is helping reduce those gaps.
Could you share how Women in the Lead started?
Women in the Lead is one of the positive outcomes that came during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Tour Leader at Royal Mountain Travel (RMT) Ms Shruti Shrestha was planning a trip on her own with her friends and was giving an open call for her friends who are interested to trek post lockdown. This was a way out for her after having to stay locked in the house, overwhelmed with the household work. Usually she is a person who is active in the fields meeting new people from around the world every now and then. So she had felt the need to go outside of the house and explore when the lockdown was easing slowly.
Since she is associated with RMT, we wanted to reach a wider audience and like her there must be many people who were looking to come out of the house and have their own time and explore outside of the family, safely. The reason we wanted this platform to be for women is that us women usually do not tend to travel solo or without someone from our friends or family. But when a company like Royal Mountain Travel was bringing such initiation, the trust factor was already there.
After some discussion we decided to turn our trek idea into a membership program where we will encourage the women of the country to come together and travel. Keeping International Women’s day in mind, we created a trek event and started promoting our initiative as Women in the Lead. We wanted to provide a hassle free, safe environment and sustainable travel experience.
How has it helped women?
This has given a platform for women to travel without relying on friends and family and to travel with someone they have never met before in a safe environment.
We have had a couple of home-makers joining our first trip who had second thoughts on leaving their kids and going out of house a week. But given an option to have personal time for themselves, they joined in and made the most of it.
The process of traveling is often seen as a male domain, and that is why some women are afraid to travel alone. On the other hand, they are often the ones who decide where they want to go, if they have a partner or not. They may also need to take care of their children during their vacations. The fear of travelling alone is one of the most common barriers for women in terms of travel. These include a fear of stepping outside their comfort zones, a lack of confidence or a fear of being judged.
How can workplaces help remove those barriers?
Workplaces can share opportunities like Women in the Lead programs to their staff. They can encourage women to take risks but also help them feel safe to work. They may also provide facilities such as gender-based needs like menstruation or period management supplies.
How can companies help empower women?
Companies can provide a strong support system and gender-balanced policies which can help women tackle the social norms that limit them even outside their office. They can create an atmosphere for equal opportunities of growth. Similarly, gender balanced teams and meetings can be encouraged.
Do you have any suggestions for women who want to travel but are afraid?
We are determined to give an opportunity and encourage females to step outside of their comfort zone and travel with someone who you have never met before, don’t know their story, don’t know from what different background they come from. At first, this might not sound like a good idea, but trust us this will be a lifetime experience and friendship. Your safety is in our hands and we make sure that is our number one priority.
You get to go different places, meet new people and create memories, not only with the ones you are traveling with but also with the locals you will meet during the trips. We will be embarking on this journey to travel to different places setting inspirations to others like us.
Written by Richa Neupane, Impact and Sustainability Manager at the Royal Mountain Group in conversation with Sabita Khadka, Women in the Lead organizer and Marketing and Travel Consultant at Royal Mountain Travel.