Can trail running empower? This project explores this question through an ethnographic study of the Exchange and Empower Program. Established with the help of Salomon-sponsored mountain runner and former Maoist child soldier Mira Rai, the Program provides financial and practical support to talented young women runners from rural Nepal. In addition to running training, the organisation provides English instruction, confidence-building workshops and trekking guide training. The researcher will employ participant-observation fieldwork methods, sharing in the daily routine of training of the Program’s athletes, as well as participating in other social and volunteering activities.
What effects do trail running and the other skills and confidence training provided by Exchange and Empower have on the agency of young Nepali women? Are the women of the Program ‘empowered’? Can trail running be part of an effort to transform gender relations? This research project seeks to interrogate the concept of ‘empowerment’ through an ethnographic study of the athletes involved in the Exchange and Empower program.