KATHMANDU: When Kanchhi Maya Tamang ascended Mt Everest for the first time in 2017, the first impression she got was that the world’s highest peak was a symbol of unity and equality where both men and women walked on the same trail holding the same rope, faced the same challenge and underwent the same struggle.
Kanchhi Maya, 31, hailing from Bhotang, Sindhupalchowk, climbed Mt. Everest with a powerful message that ‘women are human beings with intellect and emotions, not the property or lifeless objects’.
Now that she has climbed the summit of the Everest three times. She first climbed the Mt. Everest on May 21, 2017, to become the first lady from the Tamang community to conquer the world’s highest summit.
As a returnee of foreign employment, Kanchhi Maya climbed the Everest with a mission — to bring awareness about the terrible crime of women trafficking, which she herself had a very close encounter with.
“I visited Egypt with the help of my friend, I didn’t face much problem there. My friends, who went abroad for foreign employment with the help of agents, underwent numerous problems there,” she recalls.
She noticed that some Nepali girls were treated badly next to her; some were locked up in a basement or were paid less than what they were promised by their employers. These women were trapped and were unable to leave, as their passports were taken away from them.
Describing the miseries of the Nepali women in Egypt, Kanchhi Maya says, “They do not get any off-day in a week or a holiday or a leisure time. They work for long hours at a low salary. They are not even allowed to talk to others in case of emergency or otherwise.”
Kanchhi Maya recalled an incident when she saved the life of a young Nepali girl by arranging an escape for her and finding another family to work for. The girl whom Kanchhi Maya rescued was literally confined within the four walls of the house. Says Kanchhi Maya, “If the girl hadn’t escaped from that place, she would have starved to death. The girl in question is now living in Nepal, all happy and married too.”
Such incidences motivated Kanchhi Maya to do something for such helpless girls trapped in dangerous situations of life. At the same time, she took Pemba Dorje Sherpa, her husband whom she married in 2016, into confidence by sharing everything that she felt. Pemba, a record holder as the fastest climber, had ascended Mt Everest as many as 20 times, advised Kanchhi Maya saying, “If you really want to change the world, then first change yourself by climbing the Mt. Everest and speak from the top of the world. Your voice would be louder and bolder that will reach far and wide across the world.”
He encouraged Kanchhi Maya to come back to Nepal and pull up the socks. His words were so motivating for her that she returned to Nepal in April 2016 and prepared herself to climb the Mt. Everest.
“I successfully climbed Mera Peak first. For me, it worked like a rehearsal and provided me a platform before attempting a final climb of Mt Everest,” shares Kanchhi Maya. She continued to say, “After getting prepared both physically and mentally, I ascended Mt Everest in 2017.”
She conquered Mount Everest in a bid to highlight the vulnerabilities of trafficking in Nepal where thousands are sold into slavery every year. Several hundred Nepali women and girls are trafficked and forced to work in dire circumstances every year.
Kanchhi Maya took with her a powerful message to the top of the world, stating: “We are people, human beings with intellect and emotions, not a property or lifeless objects”.
“My mission has been to stop forced migration of women and girls from my district, which is listed as a district having a record of the most trafficked women in the country. I want to support initiatives that create local employment opportunities and thus empower women, both facing forced migration and foreign employment returnees like myself. We must empower girls”.
She has been working day and night to prevent women and girls in her district helping them overcome sufferings of human trafficking. Kanchhi Maya now is a prominent figure in her community, who promotes girls’ education and advocates for their rights. “Taking right decisions at the right times leads to success,” she asserts.
“I consider my win as the victory of all women and girls. My mission is to contribute to the country that stands for equality — free from discrimination where all girls and women have the freedom and an enabling environment to realize their full human potential,” says Tamang.
Recalling her first mountaineering experience with Khabarhub, Kanchhi Maya said she feels nostalgic when she narrates how terrible it was to even think of spending days and nights on the bare mountains in an adverse climatic condition.
For this lady, it was a nightmare as she was going through menstruation while climbing Mt Everest. She conceded the pain that she endured during the menstruation period particularly in severely cold weather on the mountains. “When I reached the Icefall, I had menstruation. The pain was immense. I developed leg pain and could not move ahead’,” she recalled the difficult climb. However, she was determined to climb Mt Everest not for her personal feat but for the welfare of all the Nepali women. She took eight hours to reach Camp 2 from Camp 1 – a distance usually covered in just three hours.
“I took a day’s rest in Camp 2 and took medicines to stabilize menstruation. Next day, I was fit to climb,” she shares adding, “The moment I started my climb from Camp 2, I felt that the entire Nepali women populace was motivating me to climb higher and conquer the world’s highest peak.” However, tears rolled down her cheeks when she felt sorry for her fate that she was born as a girl, who had to under the natural cycle of painful menstruation.
“Upon reaching the top of the world, my happiness knew no bounds. I cried, shrieked out of happiness. I wanted to cry loudly to make my voice heard, which I couldn’t do because I had wearing an oxygen mask,” Kanchhi Maya, in fact, was stunned for a couple of minutes.
“I discovered everything floating below me, even the cloud. I regarded myself as a new person within me — totally different than what I used to be,” she recalls.
She found the mountain peak as a symbol of unity and equality where both men and women walked on the same trail holding the same rope, face the same challenge and descend to the base camp undergoing the same struggle.
Talking to Khabarhub, she also revealed the truth of the much talked about ‘traffic’ at the Everest. The peak of tourist arrivals on Mount Everest is felt all through the spring season. However, this year, the number of climbers increased by many folds on May 22 and 23 — two days of the month as the weather turned good. “There was a rush on those two days,” she recalls referring to the unprecedented instance that caused a traffic jam on the Himalayan trail of Mt Everest for the whole world to see. According to her, the climbers were rushing to climb on those two days. But, she has not had any such experience.
Kanchhi and her husband have been climbing the Mt Everest every year since 2016. This year she hoisted the flag of Nepal Tourism Year 2020 duly signed by Prime Minister KP Oli together with Kalpana Dash from India and Liyamu Ma from China on May 22. “We can achieve anything if given the chance,” exudes Tamang.
This time they climbed Mt Everest with an objective of spreading the message of universal peace and friendship. She is equally worried about the vanishing snow from the Everest due to global warming and climate change. “It is high time that we took initiatives to save the mountains,” she says adding, “Or else, we shall lose the ambiance of the world’s loftiest mountain. The level of snow is going down every passing year.”
“Climbing mountains is like an addiction. Once you climb it, you want to climb more times,” says Kanchhi Maya adding, “My aim is to climb all the 14 highest peaks.” On fear of climbing, she concludes, “Once I am up there, I have no fear – proverbial fear of fall – oh, yes.”