1-7 January 2016 #789

Women flying high

Paragliding used to be dominated by men but women are making inroads.
Xiaotong Xu in POKHARA

HIGH FLYER: Prativa Bogati, 24, (left) soaring with a passenger above Pokhara recently. She is one of four licensed Nepali female commmercial paragliding pilots.

When 24-year-old Prativa Bogati (pic) was a young girl her gaze would constantly be up at the sky, watching paragliders above the lake. She dreamt that one day she’d like to fly like them. Her dream has been fulfilled, today Bogati is one of four Nepali women who are licensed commercial paragliding pilots.

Since it was introduced as an adventure sport 19 years ago, paragliding has become the mainstay of Pokhara’s tourist attraction. The field used to be dominated by men, and still is with more than 100 male pilots in the business. But women are making inroads.

Bogati got her license three years ago, and believes women are discouraged both by the high cost of training and lack of family support for them to enter a male domain.

“Although my husband was supportive, my family wasn’t too pleased with my choice, they thought I was crazy for trying to make a career out of jumping off mountains,” Bogati laughs.

Bogati worked as a receptionist at a paragliding company while simultaneously undergoing her flight training which lasted two years and cost Rs 1.7 million. Her husband, who ran a café in Pokhara, financed her classes but the money was still not enough. So, the couple took a bank loan.

But years of struggle seemed worth it when she flew her first passenger as a tandem pilot. Her son was one of her first clients. “He is happy and proud to say his mom is a paragliding pilot,” says Bogati.

Bharat Timilsina, the owner of FlyNepal Paragliding Company, is proud to have Bogati among his crew and says she is one of his most popular pilots. “There are many customers who ask specifically for her to pilot their paraglider,” he says.

There is a shortage of commercial paraglider pilots, and Timilsina says women fliers like Bogati have proven that women can be as professional as the male pilots. Yogesh Bhattarai of the Nepal Airsports Association says there’s no gender bias in the paragliding industry and the association is now trying to increase the involvement of women in the field by sponsoring the training for young women.

For her part, Bogati believes if one is hardworking and professional, gender should not matter, and predicts there will be more young women like her training to be pilots. In fact, women pilots have themselves become a tourist attraction. This week three Chinese tourists insisted on being photographed with Bogati.

As she unfurls her parachute for another jump off Sarangkot this week, Bogati says: “If men can do it, so can we.”

www.facebook.com/FLY-NEPAL-Paragliding

Read also:

Pokhara looks to 2016, Xiaotong Xu and Siran Liang

Where have all the tourists gone?, Tsering Dolker

From femininity to masculinity, Bernardo Michael and George Varughese

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