R in the word “rights” stand for responsibility, but W in “woman” does not stand for weak. She has proved this time and again. Several talented women have been leading public offices, parliamentary constituencies, and companies. Many of them have become successful Indian Police Service (IPS) officers. However, Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) believes that she is unfit to become a camp leader. Prerequisites to become the camp leader are simple: experience of two high altitude trekking expeditions, physical fitness and ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. There is no dearth of woman candidates having all three qualifications and many of them will be willing to serve as camp leaders.
I have trekked with YHAI many times, but I never met a woman camp leader beyond base camp. This fact coupled with my keen interest in trekking aroused my curiosity so I asked field directors and camp leaders one question on many occasions: why woman trekkers or climbers are not appointed though at times camps are managed by cooking staff only? These brief interactions revealed three facts:
There is a shortage of camp leaders.
Male mountaineers feel that camp leader duties do not contribute to their mountaineering skills and aspirations.
Woman camp leaders are too vulnerable to be posted beyond the base camp.
But I have a different opinion. No doubt, there is a little scope for climbing, but male camp leaders get a chance to live at high altitude, acclimatizing well and faster; improve trekking skills by getting an opportunity to trek frequently between different camps; and ramble through different routes. Moreover, what about their female counterparts who have same set of qualifications, but are entrusted with reception desk duties at the base camp throughout the minimum service period of 21 days? Not all men are articulate, brave and strong enough to survive rough physical conditions and deal with complex man management situations that may occur at high altitude camps. Similarly, not all women are weak and poor managers.
YHAI needs to reconsider its conservative approach towards prospective woman camp leaders for its high altitude adventure expeditions.