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About Mission Saipal

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Women comprises of 52 percent of the total population (195,159) in the Bajhang district, the district of Mt Saipal. The situation of women in the Saipal region is very deplorable as they are subject to Chaupadi (a cultural practice where girls and women have to stay in animal shed during their menstrual period and are not allowed to touch other family members), violence against women, early child marriage, social discrimination, excessive workload, domestic violence, sexual harassment and trafficking and many forms of social injustice, among others. They are also denied of basic needs of life, for instance, proper food and nutrition, health care, sanitation and hygiene, education, economic self-reliance, and on top of everything, the sense of dignity, liberty, rights and social justice.



Though they live all their life by the side of Mt. Saipal, the women in this region are not allowed to climb it because of a superstition that women who scale up the mountain will disrespect the God and they will be cursed by the Almighty and consequently misfortune happen to them, leading up to the death.

While the women in this region are forced to live a wretched lives, yet on the courtyard and backyard of their homes, there stands Mt Saipal stands will all its magnanimity. While the women are downtrodden and victimized, the peak brags all its superiority and glory. While the women here are hapless and live in scarcity, the alpine is profuse. While the women of this region are perceived impure and second-class citizens of the society, the pinnacle is the symbol of purity. While these women are meant for disrespect, the peak claims reverence. In this same region and living in the proximity with each other, the situation of Mt Saipal and the women represent two opposite poles. This project dwells on the theme of women empowerment of the area on the lap of Mt Saipal and concentrates on the mission to uplifting the status of women to the height of Mt Saipal where, as indicated by the name, Mission Saipal: A Summit of Emancipation, they would be able to secure and enjoy dignity, freedom, respect/self-respect, purity and profoundness for themselves. It is hence, the project is bringing forward world’s most adventurer and toughest of mountaineers to reach atop of the peak and celebrate womanhood as well as harbinger the message of women empowerment of the region.

Mountaineering is a sport done with personal motive. Summiteers choose to climb the peaks for various reasons- sometimes to test their courage, to challenge their own selves, to seek thrill and fulfill their desire of adventure and to keep records, among others. As an unique event in Nepal’s mountaineering history, some world’s renowned summiteers (majority are female) are going to scale up Mt Saipal in October this year with a social cause, which is to challenge the mindset of the local people that women are in no way inferior or lesser to men as well as to herald the message of women empowerment in the region.

Most importantly, four local girls from the south region of Saipal will also be a part of this expedition. It is hence, the mission is expected to bring about considerable amount of impact in the lives of women and change the existing social perceptions toward women in the Saipal region.

Background

The expedition ‘Mission Saipal’ dates back to October & November 2018. It started from Kathmandu, the Capital City of Nepal to Bajhang, one of the remotest hilly districts from the Far-West Nepal that lies around 1,000 km away from the Capital City. The expedition gets its name from the Mt. Saipal (7031m), located at Bajhang district, which has no official records till to this date conquered by any humans.

Saipal, besides, as a mountain, is also a center of civilization and religiosity. There are many myths associated with Saipal in the community. One of such Myths is that the mountain is the abode of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The name Sapial, according to Hindu mythology, is named after Lord Bishnu as Mt Kailash is named after Lord Shiva. In the Hindu civilization, there are three major Gods-Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva-the Gods of creation, nurturing and destruction. The local people believe that as Mt Kailash is home to Lord Shiva, Mt Saipal, in the same manner is the residence of Lord Bishnu, who rests upon the lap of Sesnaag, a five headed holy Serpent God. It is also believed that Mt. Saipal receives the shadow of Mt. Kailash which makes it more difficult to climb for.
Bajhang is one of the least developed districts of Nepal, marked by under-development superstition, unemployment, labor migrtion, gender discrimintion, child marriage and so many other social mal practices. Chaupadi is one of the most debatable traditions in this district because it dehumanizes and discriminates women in the name of tradition and religion. Under the chaupadi tradition, the women are forced to live in a small hut shaped like a cow shed away from home and family members during her menstruation period every month. while staying in the Chaupadi shed many women have already lost their lives because of the snake bites and wild animals attack. In some stances, some of the women were raped and gang raped and killed by the unnamed people taking benefit of the lack of safety and security in such Chaupadi huts.

The expedition itself is an act against the existing forms of discrimination in the community where they have a deeply rooted social belief that women are impure because of the menstruation and hence they are not allowed to climb mountains. The people in this region believes that their ancestral God ‘Langa’ dwells in the mountains, hence will curse the women if they climb. The disrespect of the God will bring misfortune to them, even leading up to their death or the death of their loved ones.

The Expedition

Mr. Bhoj Raj Bhat, a resident of the far-west and the journalist cum movie maker, known for his documentary ‘Sunakali’ organized the expedition ‘Mission Saipal’ in coordination with the different agencies of government from federal level to local government. The expedition was intended to bring a social change in that community by liberating the women from discrimination.

4 of the local girls were selected as the ‘Change Maker’ to climb Mt. Saipal along with the team of national and international climbers to bring considerable change in the perception of the community people towards women and help them freed from the social beliefs and practices that backed the discrimination to the women. The local girls took the training for Mountaineering at Kathmandu at NMA. The mountaineers from US and Europe join the expedition team to support the girls in their mission. There were also experienced Sherpas who have already climbed Mt. Everest to guide the team to the top of Mt. Saipal.

The expedition started from October………..All of Nepal was celebrating their greatest festival Dashain. However, the expedition team were preparing for the expedition. The team was brought to Chainpur, district headquarter of Bajhang district first by plane and then by rented bus. The team were welcomed by the Tourism Minister from the Far-West Province and handed over the national flag wishing them for the success. The team was accompanied by the local cultural group all the way to Chainpur.

The four local girls were waiting for the team at Chainpur. They were so happy to see the arrival of the team. The hope and fear both were seen in their face. The real expedition started from Chainpur in the rented Jeeps to Talkot, where a huge mass of around 5 thousand welcomed the team in their tradition way with traditional songs and dances. Talkot is known for the palace of the traditional king of Bajhang. The descendants of the king still lives in their traditional palace and performs all the rituals. The team were received by the king in his palace.The motorable road ends at Talkot.

The team reached the base camp after 3 days walking under the jungle and along the rivers. The team organized a health camp at Dhalon, where around 500 people especially children and old aged people got treatment. It had been very hard for people to get the treatment on time since they have to walk for three days to reach the nearest health post.

3 of the girls get menstruation on the day when the team moved for the base camp from Dhalon. They hesitated to continue the expedition, though they were committed and motivated at the time of beginning it. The team members suggested them to take menstruation as the natural phenomena of female and debug any misconception of pure and impure related to menstruation.

The team reached the base camp of Mt. Saipal on the 7th Day of the expedition. The base camp was fronting towards the Mt. Saipal, covered by other mountains from all other sides. A small rivulet was running from the middle of the base camp.

Fortunately, few of the American alpinist mountaineers were already there trying to climb Mt. Saipal. It had been nearly 7 days for them trying to climb Mt. Saipal when the team reached the base camp. They were nearly ending their climbing with many unsuccessful attempts.

The story of unsuccessful attempts that they shared after their return at the base camp made the ‘Mission Saipal’ team suspicious of theirs too. However, the lama, made a ritualistic worship to the Mountain and cleared the way. The team stayed for three days in the base camp and for acclimatization. on the fourth day, the team started climbing Mt. Saipal.

After the team climbed around 5600 meter and rested for the night, all of a sudden it snowed heavily all night. In the morning, the tent was below 3 feet snow that made the ascent almost impossible. The team returned back to the base camp and waited for 3 more days in the hope of a favorable climate. The climate started to worsen more and due to the regular snowing it became more difficult to stay in the base camp too.

At the end, losing all the hope, the team called-off the expedition. The decision to call-off the expedition sadden the four local girls who had a different mission for the expedition. They knew the impact of the failure of the expedition in their life back in their family and community. How much struggle they had done within themselves, with their family and the community! They started to cry and refused to go back to their homes. Rather tried to force themselves to continue the expedition on themselves without caring of the outcome.

Dr. Jorge Egocheaga, team leader, consoled the girls convincing them that life is more important than climbing the mountains. if one is alive, he/she can attempt as many mountains as they like. He himself visited the girls’ home and village and told their family that Mt. Saipal could not be climbed because of bad weather. It has nothing to do with the impurity of girls and their menstruation.

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