International Women’s Day 2016 #Pledge for Parity

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For a change, I had an exciting Sunday morning. The YHAI-Youth Hostels Association of India along with ACAP- Adventure Club of Andhra Pradesh had organized a Rappelling Event for women in Vijayawada to celebrate International Women’s Day. Every year umpteen events are organized to celebrate International Women’s Day – global gatherings, conferences, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, concerts, and performances but I think this event was an innovative way to encourage the local women to come forward and participate in an adventurous sport.  The IWD 2016 campaign theme is #PledgeForParity. Gender equality is the need of the day. What could be more liberating for a woman to Rappel down alone from a height and feel the exhilarating thrill of achievement and showing men that we are on par with them?

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What is Rappelling? It is the act or method of moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body, usually under the left thigh and over the right shoulder, and paid out gradually in the descent.

Vijayawada being a laidback city there are hardly any events to challenge women out of their comfort zone. We should have more of such events where women can be motivated to dare themselves and come out winners.

YHAI has been organizing various adventures and trekking programs. These programs are being organized in some of the most extreme terrains of the country, be it the mountains, deserts, caves, beaches or even the woods!

The Youth Hostel Movement had found its way into India before the partition of the country in 1947. The idea was introduced in the early forties by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of India. Adventure club of Andhra Pradesh (ACAP) was established in 1991, affiliated to youth services Dept. Govt. of AP, and Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) New Delhi. So far they have trained more than 6, lakhs students, youth, corporate and others in all adventure activities like rock-climbing, trekking, sport climbing rafting. Hot air ballooning, and out bound training to the corporate.

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Top of the Hill

All three have come together to encourage the youth to get closer to nature and experience adventure sports. Mr. Vishnu of Adventure Club especially wanted to target and encourage women and planned to have a Rappelling Event on Mogalrajpuram hill in the city. They had 55 registrations for the Rappelling event.

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The event started a bit late due to setting up all the equipment. The participant climbed the numerous steps to the top and came down the southern side of the hill. I thought that I was late but luckily, the first participant was coming down just as I reached. Participant number one got cold feet and did not complete her task. The next participant was Anuradha, 39, an advocate. It was her first attempt at adventure sports but still she was excited, even while coming down and after she completed, she was ecstatic, unmindful of her scratched elbows and said that,” We can achieve the impossible if we wanted to.”

The crowd and family of each participant were rooting loudly as they came down, shouting encouraging words and boosting their confidence. While the next participant was coming down, I took the time to talk to another go-getter lady; Vijayakrishna, 50 years old and holding a world record in Rappelling blindfolded from Katiki falls, Araku Valley. She seemed to be a simple woman but her achievements are worth applauding. She was prodding me to wear the harness and helmet and take the challenge but I had to politely decline and cite my weak back as a reason. I would like to salute such women of grit and determination, who quietly set out to stand shoulder to shoulder with men.

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Kavya was the second participant to land successfully. She is 24, it was her first time and she had come against her parents’ wishes. I know that parents are very protective of their children but they should also see what their child wants and if it is in a safe environment they should encourage their daughters to go for it.

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Himaja, 23, followed next and she said that she had already rappelled once on the slopes of snow covered hills in Shimla and this was a chance she did not want to miss as it was local.

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Haritha, 39 and the fastest participant till now seemed very confident and fearless. She was down on terra firma in 4 minutes and made it look so easy. Following her was her 16year old daughter, Bhavya; a fitting example of a mother leading by example. She couldn’t conceal her elation and was in high spirits long after her landing and she was talking of going for a next event.

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The ropes got entangled and one of the volunteers came face down to loosen them. He was like a monkey, so agile and moving with so much ease. The infamous Vijayawada sun was spewing heat by now and the rock too was getting heated up. The participants were complaining of thirst.IMG_9869

A psychologist by profession, Haripriya, 38, was the last one I spoke to. Asking her about the motive for the rappelling, she said she wanted to motivate youngsters to indulge in outdoor sports and get away from their gadgets. This, coming from a mother whose daughter is physically challenged is admirable and altruistic.

Everyone, men and women, should pledge to take a tangible step to help achieve gender parity. By helping women and girls achieve their ambition, gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more comprehensive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can take the initiative within our own spheres of influence and vow to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.

I salute the spirit of the modern woman in India and hats off to her zeal to fight against all odds and come out a winner. International Women’s Day 2016 #Pledge for Parity is surely realistic if we all join hands.

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