Exchange and Empower
The Exchange and Empower program is a collaboration between Hong Kong Trail Running Women and legendary trail runner and feminist Mira Rai. The program aims to provide talented young female runners in Nepal the opportunity to broaden their horizons, experience different lifestyles, and share their stories and culture with others.
Since bursting onto the international trail running scene in 2014, Mira’s story has inspired people around the world. Raised in a remote village in Eastern Nepal, Mira left school at 12 to support her family before leaving home to join the Maoist rebels aged just 14. For Mira, this was an opportunity - a chance to train, learn new skills, and break free from the inequality of rural life.
After the end of the insurgency, Mira moved to Kathmandu in search of a brighter future. A chance encounter with Richard Ball, director of Trail Running Nepal, saw her enter her first trail running competition. She placed first, and has since raced around the world, winning many prestigious events and even being named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
Following an injury in early 2016, Mira has focussed her efforts on developing a new generation of athletes in Nepal, giving them the opportunities she feels so lucky to have had.
Women in Nepal
Nepal is modernising rapidly, but it remains a deeply patriarchal society. Life for women is hard, particularly in rural areas, where girls are expected to help rear animals, do house and farmwork and raise siblings from a young age. Despite being illegal, child marriage is common, and as a result many girls leave school early. Very few have the opportunity to study, travel, choose careers and take control of their own destinies.
The Oxfam Trailwalker - a legacy of Nepal in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a local Nepali community, largely the descendants of Gurkha soldiers who served in the territory under the British. This legacy continues to have an impact on our vibrant trail running scene. In particular, Hong Kong’s oldest and most famous ultra challenge - the Oxfam Trailwalker - originated as a Gurkha training exercise.
The 100km Trailwalker spans the width of Hong Kong’s New Territories, from the beaches of Sai Kung over mountain trails and jungle paths to the finish line in Tai Tong, Yuen Long. Teams of four work together to complete the trail within a 48-hour time limit. In recent years, the Nepali men’s team have come to dominate the challenge. But what of the Nepali women?
In 2018, Mira hopes to redress this balance by bringing a female Nepali team to compete in the Oxfam Trailwalker for the first time. Not only will the girls take part in the race, they will also have the opportunity to experience Hong Kong life, staying with host families and learning about the local culture.
We need your help to make this dream a reality.
1. Training and Education Grant
We aim to fully support 6 high-potential young women athletes from Nepal, selected by Mira, for 12 months (March 2018 to Feb 2019), giving them the opportunity to focus on athletic training, education and professional development.
The program will offer to the young women:
- Personalized coaching from Mira on trail and ultra running
- 12 months’ housing and food allowance
- Small-group English lessons, 3 times per week for 6 months (supplementary to school or college)
- Allowance for professional development including travel costs and entry fee to races around Nepal, NATHM trail guide certification
- Modest stipend for acting as part time coaches in Mira’s extracurricular sports programs in local schools in Nepal
The cost to fully support one young woman for one month is approximately US$370. The total budget for the Training and Education Grant is US$27,000. We hope to provide this funding in quarterly increments starting 1 March 2018 (US$6,750 every three months).
Please check for latest fundraising status/updates on our blog.
2. Hong Kong Exchange (Oxfam Trailwalker)
As part of the program, four of the young women will be selected to visit Hong Kong in November 2018 to participate in the Oxfam Trailwalker. Since ultra running is not yet an officially recognised sport in Nepal, most of the young women in the program will have no experience running longer than half-marathon or marathon distances. Mira’s training program will develop the women’s athletic potential and Mira will select the four women most suited for the 100km race. We hope to provide other opportunities for the women who are not selected to race and experience life overseas in the future.
We aim to raise US$5,000 to bring the 4 person female Nepali team to Hong Kong. This amount will cover:
- Food and other daily expenses
In total the women will stay in Hong Kong for 10 days. Tours and educational programs will be arranged to ensure they receive the maximum possible benefit from their time here.
3. Nepal Exchange
Meanwhile, we also plan to arrange an exchange trip to Nepal, lasting 7-10 days, targeted in mid December 2018. This trip will be self-funded - details are yet to be finalised, but we expect the cost to work out at around US$2,000 per person, including flights from Hong Kong.
Participants will visit the rural hometown of one of our Nepali team members to learn about village life, enjoy hiking in the stunning Nepal countryside, and receive some trail running training from Mira and also participate in a local trail race. There will also be cultural programs, including the opportunity to teach and give something back to the local communities.
Please contact us if you are interested to participate in the Nepal Exchange trip.
As Mira herself says, there are countless Mira Rais in Nepal - women who dream of doing something more with their lives, but lack the means or opportunity to do so. This program may be a small step, but it will help to change the lives of the women involved, and hopefully inspire a new generation of Nepali women to follow their dreams.