This photo essay was submitted by photographerKiran Ambwani

Last year, 20 Canadian and 12 Nepalese women embarked on a powerful and meaningful journey: a trek for peace and development in Nepal. The project, organized by the Center for International Studies and Cooperation and Uniterra, was an initiative to communicate the reality, the dreams and the hopes of the Nepalese women. These mountain women face poverty, disease, and lack of access to basic resources, along with gender and caste discrimination. Their voices are often unheard and they are excluded from decision-making processes. For 20 years in Nepal, the Center for International Studies along with its local partner organizations has encouraged women's participation in community development.

In the midst of western Nepal's stark beauty, cultural heritage and diversity, I witnessed a grinding, hopeless poverty and dependence. However, I was pleased to discover that women teachers, health care workers, healers, human rights activists, community leaders, reporters, and managers of women’s cooperatives, are conduits of social change. These inspirational women are the future of Nepal as it emerges from 11 years of conflict and decades of monarchy, offering hope of dignity, equality, wealth distribution, and access to basic resources. Achieving gender equality and empowering women is of utmost necessity for building healthier, better educated, more peaceful and prosperous societies.

Kiran Ambwani
Center for International Studies and Cooperation

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