Nungshi Malik & Tashi Malik: Power Twins who are doing more than climbing mountains
So, you wonder, as many others have asked, “How can you ‘empower’ girls by climbing mountains”?
Well, it is India. A nation whose best has outclassed the best of the world in many a field, but our worst, especially in human development index compares to the worst regions of world: sub Saharan Africa! And we don’t have to underscore that despite claims of a ‘shining India’ vast majority of our girls live at the worst end of our human existence. Women even in the most advanced nations suffer several ‘gender’ challenges.
We too are girls, with roots in one of the most conservative rural areas of Northern India (Haryana) which has notoriously high imbalance in sex ratio in favor of boys. We feel the pain of the blatant and epidemic violation of our girls’ rights. Many parents, especially in rural India still consider boys as the only off springs. The girl child is caught in a vicious cycle of feticide & infanticide, vicious cycle of ‘denial-exclusion-malnutrition-lack of education-domestic work and eventual economic dependence on the male’. Right from her birth (that is, if at all she’s fortunate to be born!), our girl child has numerous ‘Mountains to climb’ to merely survive.
We climbed the mightiest of all mountains ‘Mt Everest’ for our passion to stand on top if the world. But it was excruciatingly tiring and extremely dangerous mission, and soon after our success everyone said ‘enough is enough’! But by then the nation’s conscience had been shaken by the ‘Nirbhaya’ tragedy and we like the rest of the country, were outraged. We wanted to ‘do something big’ for the girls, to make them feel strong and change some of the gender stereotypes. So we decided to do what few people in the world (and certainly no South Asians) have so far dared: to complete the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’ (that involves scaling tallest peaks in all continents and reaching north and south Poles on Skies).
This holy grail of adventure takes lifetime for most aspirants to accomplish, costs dozens of lives each year and demands the very best of physical and mental determination, with abundance of good luck. But inspired by the Indian Girl Child (who we believe has nerves of steel!) we took up the challenge. In the process we faced several ‘near death’ experiences, due to the speed and number of climbs lost weight rapidly (often dipping to dangerous levels), suffered the onset of severe frost bite and blisters and many a moment when body said ‘give up’ but we said 'go on'. We used up parents’ entire life savings, including pledging mom’s jewelry for gold loan (that still remains unrecovered!) but persisted with our dream to achieve historic milestones for the girl child. There was ‘no going back’, our own life and comfort seemed to matter so little in comparison to the cause we espoused.
Weeks of skiing to the poles, pulling sledges with 70 kg loads, enduring temperatures averaging minus 30 degrees in Antarctica and on the Arctic ocean, all seemed to pale when we reminded ourselves about the nights in chilly winters that millions of our poor girls endure trying to feed their families at a time they should be going to school. And with abundant blessings from ‘cosmic’ energies, we prevailed, completing the grand slam in merely 2 years and 1 month, achieving the second fastest timing by any women in the world, as also becoming world's youngest persons to do so! For once, we had beaten men in a sport so completely dominated by them!
But we see this as just the beginning of our journey for girl empowerment. We have to reignite the spark of dignity and self-worth and rekindle the spirit of ‘dream big and achieve’ among our girls. We envision a world in which every woman has the opportunity to set her sights high and reach her highest potential.
And what better means than to give ample opportunities to our girls to dare the high mountains and prove they are as capable as boys including in the toughest and dangerous of all sports: mountaineering! We plan to enable girls’ dreams through the creation of a ‘one of its kind’ in the world facility to be known as ‘Women’s Outdoor Leadership Academy’ planned to be located in the greater Himalayas. Overtime, this will serve as the powerhouse of girl empowerment activities through mountaineering and outdoor adventure. So far the World has hired mostly ‘western’ mountain guides and exploration leaders. We envision Indians, especially our girls ‘leading the pack’ some years from now!
“May we ask you to join in our movement on behalf of the girls we care about”?
Let’s stand solidly with the Indian Girl Child and pledge all our resources to help her earn her rightful and equal place in the society. Let the world realize that ‘Girl child is a human being first always and every time’!
“For India can never achieve its true potential without its daughters leading the way”.
Come, let’s ‘move Mountains’ for our girls.