Summit sisters: female guides show the way

Selita and Sulueti are tough women. They regularly walk for hours barefoot to get to their farms – so there was no doubting that they have the strength and stamina needed to be a guide.

But rural women face many other challenges to guiding with us. During our annual guide training in February 2017 we included a session to hear from some of the women (and the men) about some of the barriers they face to guiding. Some of the issues that came up included the heavy workload of women in the village – they are often the first to get up and the last to bed – getting up around 4am to start cooking for the day, looking after the children and the elderly, gardening, cleaning, washing clothes at the standpipe nearby, and often staying up to ensure everyone is fed before going to bed themselves. Women raised issues such as partners not allowing or encouraging them to exercise and / or being jealous when they go guiding.

These barriers often prevent women from putting themselves forward for opportunities to guide when the guides are selected for each trek by the tourism committee and village meeting.

Women also made recommendations to the men in the village and Talanoa Treks as to how we could collectively better support them to guide – husbands have committed to helping with household tasks and encouraging exercise and Talanoa Treks have committed to ongoing training support and skills development.

Around 65% of Talanoa Treks’ guests are women so its great to have some more women to guide (and talanoa!) with us on the trail.

As a result of kind donations from friends and guests we have been able to buy eight pairs of hiking shoes for the women that are keen to guide regularly.