“Wasfia” is a film that tells the story of National Geographic 2016 Emerging Explorer and Adventurer Wasfia Nazreen, a female mountaineer from Bangladesh. She has completed the Seven Summits and climbs to raise awareness for women’s rights. The mini-documentary is a 2017 finalist for the Tribeca X Award.
Directed by Sean Kusanagi, “Wasfia” is described as a “lyrical and poetic” documentary that delves into one woman’s pursuit of the unknown. The documentary is noted as a stunning piece of cinematography, made even more unbelievable by the fact that the entire film was shot using an iPhone 6s. Fittingly, the film’s production is as unique and innovative as its subject and star.
As the first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits, Nazreen is using her platform and passion for climbing to further activism and nonprofits. The climber finds the hobby ironically suitable for the causes that motivate her. For Nazreen, facing the challenges of scaling the rocky precipices of a mountain is a perfect metaphor for the struggles that women face everyday.
I just knew [climbing] worked for me and was a good parallel,” Nazreen told National Geographic. “Walking to every continent by itself, symbolically, was taking Bangladesh to every continent. The struggle on the mountain was the struggle of the women in our society.”
Nazreen herself ran away from home to live with her aunt after her parents went through a tumultuous divorce. Nazreen was homeless but although these traumas hindered her formal education, she never stopped learning. She educated herself and eventually earned a scholarship to attend university in America.
Nazreen’s passion for helping women began while she was an undergraduate at Decatur, Georgia’s Agnes Scott College. Upon receiving a grant to conduct research on art therapy’s effects on women in India, Nazreen was exposed to some incredible people. While in Dharamsala, the mountaineer activist worked with a group of Tibetan women who were former torture victims and prisoners of China. Many of them had undergone forced sterilization as well as physical and mental abuse. The women’s resilience and courage inspired Nazreen to dedicate herself towards activism.
Now Nazreen is using her love of the outdoors to inspire others via her developing foundation, Ösel. Derived from Nazreen’s Tibetan name meaning “luminosity,” Ösel Foundation looks to shine light and empowerment on adolescent girls in Bangladesh, Nepal, and the greater Himalayan region through “mindfulness” outdoor education and training programs.
“With Ösel Foundation, a lot of our projects and trips (with schoolgirls) will be about taking care of Mother Earth and really reflecting on how much our time on Earth affects it negatively,” explained Nazreen. “It’s just mindful awareness on walking this planet. It’s about honoring the feminine energy.”
Though the foundation is still in progress, its curriculum will largely be focused on the science of the human mind. Participants will build problem-solving, social activism, leadership, and team building skills, as well as take a journey of self-reliance via activities such as art, backpacking, camping, trekking, and climbing.
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