Nepal’s trekking industry has been dominated by male guides, but a growing number of women are entering the profession as their reputation for reliability spreads.
Female trekking guides are paid well, but guiding is seasonal work and women find they are not encouraged in it by their families and society at large. Many are forced to abandon their jobs after getting married.
One of Nepal’s seniormost women guides is Neena Singh Skambraks, who has 30 years of experience. She remembers taking her first group of Japanese trekkers to Dhulikhel when she was just 19.
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“I had no work experience and family and friends made fun of me,” recalls Skambraks, whose career took off after she learnt to speak Japanese and gained experience taking clients to Annapurna and Everest Base Camps.
Maya Gurung owns her own company, Everest Women Treks Expedition, and is a climber herself, but it is a challenge for her trainees to stay on the job. “There is a general lack of support from families and disapproval of society,” she explains.