To celebrate International Womens Day, we talk with one of our female Ambassadors, Bonita Norris. In 2012 Bonita became the youngest woman to reach the North Pole & Everest. She tells us about how sport has made her who she is today and the importance of sport programmes to inspire children. Bonita has also visited Nepal several times, attempting to climb some of the world’s largest mountains there. Nepal experiences mass gender inequality on a global scale and Play for change, through its sport programme, has set up women empowerment projects. Bonita talks about her experiences of Nepal and some of the inequalities that she has witnessed.
How has sport impacted on who you are today?
Sport has helped me to become my most confident, content and energised self! Being a confident woman gives me the trust in myself to challenge sexism, stand up for myself, others, and for what I think is right. Having a skill unlocks so many more opportunities; for me, mountaineering has taken me to some of the most incredible places on earth, introduced me to lifelong friends and even introduced me to my fiancé. Sport transforms lives and I owe everything to my sport of climbing.
Is sport encouraged differently between males and females?
I’ve been lucky to have grown up with strong values of equality, but I know there are millions of young girls around the world who would say the exact opposite. Girls tend to get less encouragement than boys do of committing to sport throughout their lives; it’s not so culturally ingrained like playing football, rugby or cricket is for boys. Sport is important for everyone! Therefore encouraging females, as well as males, to play sport is key so that everyone can benefit from the power of sport.
Adventurists and tourists travel from all over the world to visit Nepal, a country renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty and impressive landscapes. Tell us about your experiences there:
I always feel like I'm back to my spiritual home when I get the chance to visit Nepal. I’ve been lucky to visit Nepal 5 times. My first trip was in 2009 when I attempted to climb Mt Manaslu, the eighth highest mountain in the world. Nepal is a beautiful country where the power of nature is felt everywhere. The people of Nepal are gentle and kind and I always feel like I'm back to my spiritual home when I get the chance to visit.
Nepal experiences a high amount of gender inequality on a global scale, have you witnessed any inequality in Nepal?
On Everest, the' Sherpas' are almost always men. I personally have never met a female 'sherpa’ on a mountain, so there is obviously a stark inequality there. I imagine that’s because culturally the job is deemed too dangerous for a woman. So many assumptions about the abilities and physical strength of a woman will have to change before we start seeing female sherpas on the summit of Everest as the norm- I’m sure it will happen, but not any time soon.
In recent times I have seen some hugely inspirational Nepalese women making waves on the global stage, encouraging a more gender equal environment. I see a big difference between the generation growing up today and the generation before them; young woman are starting to understand their rights more. The biggest changes are coming through grass roots projects such as the Play for Change Khelaun Khelaun sport programme, where the whole community is involved in the design and delivery of the project. Through Play for Change, the local people have been able to put on specific women empowerment workshops, which are so important in helping to create a culture of change.
Tell us about one of those hugely inspiring Nepalese women
Mira Rai is probably the woman who most comes to mind- she had a tough upbringing and is passionate about equality in Nepal. I am hugely inspired by her, not only for her sporting achievements but because she has had to work so hard. Mira Rai was awarded People Choice Adventurer of the Year through the National Geographic.
What advice would you give to others thinking of trying a new sport?
My advice is for anyone thinking of taking up a sport should join a club in your local area and just show up every week. You'd make new friends, learn new skills and get fitter at the same time. Commit to going at least 5 times before you decide whether you like the club and the sport they play. The coaches will motivate you, and get you moving.
The Play for Change sport programmes are a great example of how sport enables children to learn key life skills, meet new friends, and gain confidence they need for exciting futures.
'If we can show young people how sport can be such a vital and enjoyable part of their lives we would start to see the next generation suffering from fewer physical and mental issues, and far more equipped to compete on the world stage and be happy and fulfilled in their every day lives.'
'So many thousands of young people’s potential is going unrealised'
Bonita's link to Nepal, her passion for sport and her enthusiasm to get more children to learn through sport, makes her an empowering ambassador and we are proud to have her to help us inspire the next generation.
Watch Bonita Norris on Facebook as she hosts a live discussion with adventurous women, answering your questions about travel, adventure and sharing stories and advice from the most remote corners of the planet... And the less remote too. Get inspired and get involved by watching and sending your questions though.
To celebrate International Womens day, we are offering you a free Kitbrix gift when you spend £50, PLUS 20% donations go to Play for Change. Click here to access the code.
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