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Conquering Mountains and Beyond

Afsana Khan
Conquering Mountains and Beyond

Wasfia Nazreen has bagged yet another monumental first - the first woman in the world to hold both the National Geographic Adventurers of the Year (2014-15) and the Emerging Explorers Award (2016).  

Wasfia Nazreen – a woman with dreams of scaling mountains much higher than the Everest, mountains that overshadow our prejudiced society, mountains standing in the path of women empowerment in our nation. 

On May 13, 2016, Washington’s National Geographic Society announced its 2016 class of Emerging Explorers, “a group of 13 inspiring individuals from around the globe whose unconventional thinking and innovations are changing the world for the better.” Wasfia Nazreen has also been honoured among these individuals for her relentless efforts towards women empowerment in Bangladesh. 

Last year, Wasfia Nazreen was also nominated among the 10 Adventurers of the Year 2014-15 by the National Geographic Society for her headstrong initiatives against the marginalisation and victimisation of women in Bangladesh and neighbouring regions. This makes her the first female to hold both accolades under her belt. 

Wasfia established the Ösel Foundation with a view to educating marginalised teenage girls in the rural areas in outdoor activities, accompanied by mindfulness training. Ösel is a Tibetan word roughly translating to ‘luminosity’- a fitting name for a foundation through which Wasfia plans on illuminating young lives in underprivileged societies – starting from Bangladesh, with future plans for Nepal and the greater Himalayan region.

As an Emerging Explorer, Wasfia will receive $10,000 from the National Geographic Society that, according to her spokesperson, she plans on using to launch education for the first batch of students at the Ösel Foundation. 

Bangladesh has seen unprecedented development over the last few decades on multiple fronts – industrial, economic, socio-cultural – the list goes on. However, what fails to be seen at first glance are the little pockets of traditional, prejudiced communities which still continue to plague the country. Hundreds of women whose lives are still dictated by their male counterparts, hundreds of rural girls still deprived of freedom that their urban counterparts take for granted, women looked down upon and shunned by society for a profession they were forced into by circumstances. Addressing these issues, conveniently overlooked by the more privileged, takes courage and grit that very few people possess.

May 16, 2016
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