Podcast ep 7 I love the mountains & you should too! - YouTube
Episode 7: I Love the Mountains and You Should Too!
VPODCAST: ON MY WAY! FROM A LAWYER TO A MOUNTAIN NOMAD. Why is Brown Gal Trekker obsessed with mountains? And why you should be too! Learn about the reasons why BGT launched Peak Explorations and her take on her alter ego.
References: Peak Explorations community via Facebook.
Women Explorers on the Move Meetup.
What happens when life throws something unexpectedly your way? Do you change directions or stay true to your plans? Learn about the latest on Brown Gal Trekker’s journey towards a nomadic mountain life.
Meet Enjoylight Mafuwe. She lives in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and works as a porter for Kilimanjaro climbs. The video-podcast features Enjoylight’s story as a porter for Kilimanjaro treks.
In February of 2017, my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, organized a group to trek up Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit route. Enjoylight was one of the only 3 female porters out of 24 porters in our group. She has been working as a porter for at least 3 years. The job is unpopular for women but some women like Enjoylight pursued such kind of employment out of necessity and due to a lack of employment options. Porters earn very minimal wages – usually below $10 a day. Life as a porter is difficult. One obvious reason is because of the physically demanding nature of the job as porters have to carry a load of 30 pounds or more up the mountain for several days. At the same time, you would have to subject your body to varying types of elements outdoors, from rain to snow or hot to freezing temperatures.
For Enjoylight, the next natural step to take is to become a lead guide for Kilimanjaro. To do so, one must obtain certification and licensure by taking a one year course and a year or two of field training. The costs associated with this are exponential for the locals in the area. Many cannot afford to pursue a job beyond being a porter.
Enjoylight talks about her dreams of becoming a lead guide. She has not been able to pursue her dreams of being a guide due to lack of finances to fund her education and training. Her story is all too common for the very small number of females working in the mountains of Kilimanjaro. Female guides are few and far between, mainly due to the lack of money to afford additional training.
KILIMANJARO WOMAN GUIDE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Inspired by Enjoylight’s story and the women of Kilimanjaro, Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker lauched the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program to raise funds to help the women who have a passion for the mountains in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region to pursue their dream of becoming a lead guide for Kilimanjaro climbs. Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker jointly aim to empower women to pursue leadership roles on the mountain trails while improving the lives of the locals.
We have partnered with a female owned local trekking agency in Moshi and a guide training school in Arusha to establish this project to support women like Enjoylight in pursuing a better paying job in the mountain trekking/tourism industry. Oftentimes, local trekking agencies overlook women for the opportunities to train as a guide. By doing so, we are also elevating the roles and status of women in a predominantly male driven industry.
The total cost for the guide training and licensure is $1100. This will cover the one year course, boarding, field trip fees and exam/licensure. With a goal of $2200, we can provide scholarships to two women. Women who are selected for these scholarships will have to undergo a formal application process.
Upon successfully securing the funds, the founder of Peak Explorations, Marinel de Jesus, will be flying to Kilimanjaro region in February of 2018 to meet with the selected applicants and our local partners to initiate the training program. This meeting will be documented and filmed which will then be shared with our wonderful supporters and donors. A group of female hikers from U.S. who are joining us for the Kilimanjaro Women Only Charity Trek in February, 2018 will also get to personally meet our selected applicants. (See below for more information on this charity trek). My social enterprise will continue to monitor the selected applicants’ progress with their training program to ensure a successful completion of it. All donors and supporters can follow along by subscribing to our media outlet, Brown Gal Trekker.
Support the women of Kilimanjaro region by donating to our GoFundMe campaign HERE.
Enjoylight and the small community of women in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region wish to thank you in advance for your support. Your donation will affect the lives of women in this mountain region in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. So, thank you!
KILIMANJARO WOMEN-ONLY CHARITY TREK
In addition to this donation page, Peak Explorations has organized a women-only charity trek of Kilimanjaro, which is set to occur in February, 2018. 5% of the trip cost will be donated to the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program. The hope is to establish this program as an ongoing social project through Peak Explorations and expand its scope to women working on the mountain trails in other parts of the world such as Nepal and Peru. You can also support us by joining this trip! To join and learn more, go HERE.
Podcast Ep 5 The Money Talk with Gigi Griffis - YouTube
Episode 5: The Money Talk with Gigi Griffis.
Learn about money matters as a nomad with Gigi Griffis – a freelance copywriter and a nomad who took the leap of faith 5 years ago. Not only does she give great advise on finances but also how best to prepare and approach the idea of living a nomadic lifestyle…and some advise on having pets as a nomad!
I grew up with three older brothers. I learned to stand my ground as the lone female in the pack at an early age. Growing up with brothers meant being the weird one and the outcast at times. A boys club, after all, entails a different focus from a girls club. I wasn’t always privy to everything that was going on and the fun things that my brothers did, especially when it involved an element of risk. Despite my limited participation in the shenanigans my brothers engaged in, by simply living with boys who one day became men, molded me to who I am now.
Fast forward to now, I can honestly say it doesn’t bother me one bit to play in the outdoors with men. In fact, I enjoy their company as much as I can appreciate the uniqueness of my interactions with women. There’s a certain level of openness with men that I don’t experience with women – one in which I can tap into my masculine leaning side where I peak bag mountain summits just like any guy would or get into an endless banter without worrying about offending the other by my brutal way of delivering my thoughts. Being delicate and gentle with my manner of speaking can be set aside so I can be blunt. Personally, I like that. On the other hand, in the company of women, I find myself more reserve with my thoughts and overly mindful of the delivery of my words. To not have to work that hard once in a while is certainly a much wanted break.
Feeling at home with my male hiker friends.
Recently, in the outdoors world, there’s been so much media frenzy around the notion of women empowerment. Big companies like REI are promoting the presence of women in the media, as well as, hosting female-only events to encourage women to hike, climb, bike, kayak and everything that has to do with the outdoors.
My addiction to the outdoors happens to involve hiking and multi-day backpacking. Hence, I know first-hand how the field is dominated by men. I founded a social enterprise, Peak Explorations, that markets trekking and adventure tours worldwide, and all but one of my local operators are men. Despite a disproportionate number of men over women in my social enterprise, I’m not at all feeling intimidated or hindered by this fact. In a way, it instills in me so much gratitude that the men in my life whose main purpose is to expand the growth of my social enterprise are all supportive of a female led social enterprise. How much more feminist can a man get? At least in my mind, they have made more than enough effort to show their support for equality between men and women.
Scouting the trails in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia with men.
This leads me to question the notion of all-women treks, women focused outdoor organizations and entities.
Do we need them?
Setting aside my personal experiences with men, I do understand that some women feel a level of discomfort from participating in outdoors activities that involve a larger number of male participants. As a female myself, I can agree with women who hold such sentiment, especially when they are in the beginning phase of their pursuit of hiking or trekking mountains. Rewinding back to the initial phases of my own hiking life, I can attest to the fact that yes, I certainly would feel a slight sense of intimidation to be around mostly men as a newbie hiker. And, I did. Thanks to time and experience, I overcame that sense of discomfort.
Recently, as part of my social enterprise’s mission to promote women in the outdoors, I initiated an introductory class on wilderness backpacking with a focus on women only. I soon learned that within the hiking groups where I have been an organizer for over a decade, the idea of women only activities is potentially intimidating to the opposite gender. Accusations of being discriminatory and actively excluding men were easily shared with me. Some viewed my action as politically motivated while others felt the event shouldn’t be organized at all within a co-ed hiking group. I then find myself having to justify my action by stating multiple times that the class is meant to empower and encourage women who are new to hiking to take on the hobby. After all, the female members of the hiking groups were the ones who approached me to make the request for a women-only class to learn the basics. As an organizer who happens to be a female, I felt it is only natural for me to finally organize an event to address this particular need. Mind you, this was my first time in over 10 years as an organizer to schedule a series of female-only events. As it turns out and as I have anticipated, it is a risky move on my part, especially when I’m still creating a foundation for my social enterprise.
My all women group hiking in Great Falls (D.C.)
So, going back to my earlier question – why do women need to be in a women-only group to learn backpacking?
For one, there is a sense of comfort knowing that all members share more or less similar backgrounds, be it gender-specific social challenges, life experiences, physical strength, and unwelcome social expectations that are frequently imposed on them. This naturally leads to camaraderie and empathy among the female participants, just as there’s a unique camaraderie that bonds men when they engage in a boy’s night out or getaway.
In addition, women do face a unique set of issues when it comes to backpacking and being outdoors. In discussing those issues, I’m sure men wouldn’t feel the need or desire to be a part of it. Similarly, most women would likely find themselves feeling uncomfortable divulging information pertaining to their menstrual cycle, among other topics, in the presence of men.
Lastly, inspiring women can best be achieved if the role model is a female versus a male. The outdoors world is without a doubt filled with male leaders, role models and mentors. For women to feel inspired to partake in the outdoors, the presence of a female leader, mentor, role model or fellow hiker is crucial. Of course, women admire certain male role models in the outdoors but such admiration is just not enough to compel them to partake in outdoor activities. Therefore, arguably, women-only groups fill the void as a result of the lack of female voices in the media.
Now, be honest, how hard is it to grasp the above concepts? How much more justification does any of us need to understand that an all-women event is in reality harmless?
In fact, the outcome of this endeavor leads to more women actively engaging in the outdoors. Hence, INCLUSION, right?
Don’t we all see this as a positive result? Is there anything morally or ethically wrong with that? If there is, I’d like to be the first to know. Assuming you support diversity and women in the outdoors, I cannot imagine a scenario where anyone could justifiably hold an objection to women-only events.
So, maybe you feel a bit excluded. I understand the notion.
In this case, however, in the decade I’ve organized events, with the exception of the most recent slew of women-only activities, members of my hiking groups availed themselves of countless opportunities to join co-ed trips locally, nationally and globally. To date, the treks that have been offered through my social enterprise are ALL co-ed. So, it begs the question – at what point in time did one gender get excluded?
Attending REI’s Force of Nature Women Empowerment Panel in Washington, DC area.
I’m here to tell you that along with REI and myself, there are plenty of other entities out there that are now seeing the value of holding women-only events for the same reasons noted above. I’m not alone when it comes to this definition of empowerment; although, I’d like to add that I also join the mainstream in supporting co-ed events. As much as I find value in women-only events, I also find it significantly progressive and empowering for women to break out of the bubble of the women-only events to pursue outdoor activities alongside men without any sense of fear or insecurity.
So, is one a greater version of women empowerment than the other?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d find elements of empowerment in both scenarios. One does not have to exist exclusive of the other. In my world, both are equally important and for the sake of my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, I should be able to execute both notions for the purpose of achieving an authentic version of inclusion.
As much as I understand the fear and insecurity behind “excluding” one gender, the most productive measure to take is to understand the motivations behind women-only events. The problem is it’s easy for us to quickly judge and express our opinions based on fear, as opposed to sound logic. Yet, now is an opportune time for us all to be open-minded in a moment in our society where some of us are engaged in creating scenarios that challenge everyone’s preconceived notions and levels of comfort in the outdoors. The discomfort should not lead to quick conclusions. It should initiate conversations towards a greater understanding of the underlying issues behind being a female in the outdoors. Only then can you truly have the means to decide for yourself whether anyone is being excluded or whether the endeavor is actually moving us closer to the spirit of inclusion.
Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others? SeePEAK EXPLORATIONS.
1 comment(s) for this post:
Nicole Anderson: 07 Jun 2017
This is such a great post. You hit the nail right on the head Marinel and anyone reading this should be of no doubt as to women's groups or events supposedly being about exclusion for men. That of course is nonsense. We all know it is really about building something of worth and value for women to enjoy the outdoors as much as men, but on their terms and in a supportive, focused way. By women and for women.