Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, Founder

silvia vasquez lavado

Silvia Vasquez-Lavado is a humanitarian, adventurous mountaineer, explorer, social entrepreneur, author, and technologist. In 2016, Silvia became the first Peruvian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal. By 2018, she completed climbing 7 Summits (the tallest mountain in each continent), becoming the first openly gay woman to do so. In addition to founding Courageous Girls, Silvia is a fierce advocate for LGTBQ+ equality and women’s rights and sexual abuse survivors. Silvia’s memoir In The Shadow of The Mountain, will be published by Henry Holt in February 2022. In addition, Silvia’s journey will be turned into a feature film featuring Selena Gomez as Silvia. 

Shailee Bassnet, Co-founder

Shailee Basnet is the leader of the “Seven Summits Women Team,” a group of climbers from Nepal that became the first female team to scale the highest mountain in each continent. She and her team have received global accolades ranging from an audience in the White House to one of the highest civilian medal decorations from the President of Nepal. 

In addition, Shailee co-leads education and empowerment projects in Nepal.  Shailee is an internationally sought public speaker and a stand-up comic who performs in Nepal and the US.

Maya Gurung, Co-founder

Maya Gurung is a pioneering mountaineer from Nepal who was the first female from her ethnic community to scale Mt Everest in 2008. She then continued her mountaineering venture with the ‘Seven Summits Women Team,’ the world’s first female group to summit the highest peak in each continent. In addition, she is the first Nepali woman to lead a climb to a virgin peak, Mt Gyaljen, in the Jugal mountain range in the year 2019. Having escaped from child marriage, her rural roots made her deeply aware of various forms of gendered social ills ranging from domestic violence to sex trafficking of underage girls. As a result, Maya has led outdoor training programs, provided scholarship and mentorship to many rural women, and leads the Trekking Leadership Academy in Nepal.

Katelyn Mckinney, US CG Lead

Katelyn McKinney is an international backcountry guide and social worker.  Following multiple deployments in the USAF, she left active duty to be a rape crisis counselor and sex trafficking interventional specialist in India. After an undercover brothel investigation in Nepal, she took time to solo-hike the 3 high passes in the Himalayas, discovering the healing power of wilderness experiences. She then formed a mountaineering program for American women veterans team to attempt Denali. During the pandemic, Katelyn served as Director of Navigation for the largest COVID emergency homeless shelter in the United States, designed a medical clinic to provide onsite care, and built a cooperative for all financial, employment, and housing needs for residents. She is excited to lead the Courageous Girls programming in the US and remote medicine work with her husband abroad.

Bojana Novakovic, CG Board Member

Bojana Novakovic is an actor and writer born in Yugoslavia, grew up in Australia, and now lives in New York. An AFI award winner, she is known for her work on shows such as Instinct, Shameless, Westworld, and films I Tonya, Birds of Prey, Edge of Darkness, and Beyond Skyline, among others. She has been active in education, empowerment, and environmental causes across borders. She is the coordinator of Marš Sa Drine, a collaborative movement against lithium mining and ecological collapse in Serbia. In addition, she is a member of the B Project, an education and teaching initiative in Sindhupalchok, Nepal, on which she collaborates with the “Seven Summits Women Team.” . Bojana is a photographer whose exhibit White Girl in Nepal was used to promote, educate and raise funds in the USA on the post-earthquake recovery work in Nepal