Working for women with Wasfia Nazreen

By Donna Carpenter, Burton October 07, 2014

“Through climbing, I’ve developed a deep connection to nature, which in turn has made me reflect on my own potential, perspective, and the vast capabilities of all human beings. I hope to extend this same unique connection with Mother Nature to other Bangladeshi women, in hopes that this will empower them to choose lifestyles beyond traditional gender roles.” ~ Wasfia Nazreen

At Burton, we’re committed to empowering women in snowboarding, and over the past month, I’ve had the privilege of participating in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program for the second time. The month-long internship pairs young women leaders who are working to increase women’s participation in sports in their home countries with US-based companies and organizations in the sports sector. This time around, Bangladesh’s Wasfia Nazreen, an activist and world-class mountain climber, joined us in Burlington so we could support her in developing an action plan which she aims to implement upon her return home.

A social worker by training, Wasfia’s the youngest Bangladeshi to have reached Mount Everest’s summit. Always an outdoor and climbing enthusiast, she spent several years working with women and youth in need. In 2011, on the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and in the midst of political, economical, and environmental chaos, Wasfia reflected on all the progress women had made during her nation’s brief patriarchal history and set out to climb every continent’s highest summit in celebration of that growth, founding Bangladesh on Seven Summits. The campaign celebrates the resiliency and progress of Bangladeshi women, and calls upon the country’s youth to take the nation forward. She has already reached the summit of six continents and after the completion of the seventh, she will be amongst the 37 women in the world to have accomplished such a feat.

With our deep love of the mountains and shared passion for the outdoors, it’s hard to imagine a better match. Since her arrival, we’ve hiked Stowe, practiced yoga, danced together at a Grace Potter concert, and created the world’s first Burton x Bangladesh on Seven Summits snowboard. We also attended Vermont Senator Leahy’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference and sat down with Vermont Public Radio to discuss her mission. Wasfia also presented her story to a packed room of Burton employees, and we’ve worked hard to develop her ideas from concept to actionable plan. In true Burton fashion, Wasfia and I managed to have a lot of fun while working hard.

To wrap-up her internship, yesterday at the U.S. State Department, Wasfia presented her action plan to rebrand Bangladesh on Seven Summits under the name Ösel, a word that means clarity and luminosity and refers to the intrinsic purity that lives within all of us. Through Ösel, Wasfia will partner with existing non-profits to develop vital education programs, employment, and outdoor training for marginalized adolescent girls in Bangladesh. Her mission is to empower them to confidently choose lifestyles beyond traditional gender roles. Let me just say, four weeks have never gone by so fast and while I’m sad to see Wasfia’s time at Burton HQ come to an end, I can’t wait to work with her in the future.

October 7, 2014. 17 incredible women from around the world with their mentors. Thank you U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program

To learn more about the Global Sports Mentoring program, follow the hashtag #empowerwomen.
To follow Wasfia’s efforts, check out #climbaway.

Wasfia’s new board photos by Elisa Platillero, Center for Sports, Peace and Society
Wasfia with her flag by Dylan Taylor
All other Everest and climbing photos by Ngima Girmen Sherpa

Original Article: