It was a test of human endurance, physical strength and stamina filled with spirit of adventure along with its share of excitement. Yet the team of 27 women was on a mission as they defied all obstacles to undertake the Indian Women&’s Great Desert Safari 2015, travelling across the salt desert. The team, 14 selected by Tata Steel Adventure Foundation and 13 from Border Security Force (BSF), completed an ordeal of 2,300 km, travelling from Bhuj in Gujarat to the Wagah Border in Punjab through Rajasthan on camels as well as vehicles.

Bachendri Pal, India’s first woman mountaineer, who conquered Mt Everest, trained and mentored the 27 women, who were on a mission to spread awareness on the girl child and the importance of empowering them to forge ahead in life. The journey commenced on 25 February from Bhuj and travelled across the desert, with the team speaking with villagers along the course of the journey. The safari concluded on 22 March.

The team visited remote areas and backward regions, where the women are still deprived of the basic necessities of life such as education. The women on the mission interacted with the villagers and discussed the importance of education and girl child among the rural population.

"There are no schools and if there are, they do not have that efficient teacher in the schools," said Bachendri Pal, who heads the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, speaking to media at the end of the adventure. The expedition, she said, sent a message to the women, who are still behind the veil, isolated from the opportunities in the society. The message of a sustainable lifestyle for a better future was the motto of the awareness drive.

During the safari itself, the teams were tested for their tenacity and physical endurance on the course of the 2,300 km ordeal, where despite the challenges of the desert they interacted with the soldiers at the border encouraging and motivating the brave hearts in dispensing their duty to perfection. The all-women team saluted the brave hearts at the border for their endurance and fighting more enemies than one, including the extreme weather conditions, which they have to face every hour in isolation. The enduring journey also commemorated the Golden Jubilee of the existence of the Border Security Force.

The safari gave the participants a chance to overcome their fears as it increased their confidence levels and boosted their morale. On the successful completion of the expedition, Bachendri Pal said, “It&’s a momentous occasion for us to have completed the 2,300 km Great Indian Desert Safari on camel and vehicles. The journey through the tough terrains provided numerous opportunities to come triumphant on extreme difficult situations.”

Asked about the team&’s mission, she added, “Throughout the journey we have interacted with the villagers and our brave soldiers across the border and spread the message of empowering our girl child and women empowerment, education, peace and solidarity.” She also thanked the Border Security Force for providing the best possible facilities for training and the journey.

Dr Saroj Shinde, assistant commandant, BSF, led the contingent on behalf of the Border Security Force. Apart from the leader, Bachendri Pal, the other participants selected by Tata Steel Adventure Foundation were Premlata Agarwal, Jamshedpur; Dipantari Sardar, Saraikela-Kharsawa, Jharkhand; Sukhmati Mahatao, Tumung, Jharkhand; Sushila Kumari, Kandra, Jharkhand; Rajshree Singhal, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand; Sheetal Ekka, Tata Steel employee, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand; Shobha Rani Hansda, Tata Steel employee, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand; Rani Jamuda, Kalinganagar, Odisha; Sumitra Kerai, Kalinganagar, Odhisa; Krishna Rana, Vadodra, Gujarat; Amla Rawat, Dehradun, Uttarakhand; Sandhya Bhadri, Dehradun, Uttarkhand; and Navita Rana, Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.