Team to climb Kilimanjaro for rights of young girls

2015-07-13 14:15
Members of the Trek4Mandela team at OR Tambo International Airport.

Members of the Trek4Mandela team at OR Tambo International Airport. (Twitter)

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Here's why this South African will count each step he takes up Kilimanjaro

2015-04-13 11:43

Olubusuyi Asaolu is climbing Kilimanjaro in May. Watch him tell us why he is going to count each step he takes to raise awareness around violence in SA.WATCH

Johannesburg - A 35-strong team is flying to Tanzania on Monday to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in an effort to promote the rights of young girls as they reach puberty.

One of the climbers is Richard Mabaso, the man behind the Trek4Mandela initiative.

It all began when Mabaso was sitting under a tree in Luphisi village, outside Nelspruit, where he was born.

"I overheard a conversation between my mum and my niece. She was telling my mum that she was experiencing menstrual pain," said Mabaso, the founder of the Imbumba Foundation, which started Caring4Girls, a sanitary towels and menstrual hygiene programme for underprivileged girls mainly in rural communities.

"My mom, because I was there, thought: 'What is this kid doing? She can't talk about this around her uncle.'"

Plight of young girls

Mabaso pretended not to have heard the conversation because he did not want to embarrass his niece or get her into trouble. 

"Afterwards, what struck me was [that] she was experiencing her period for the first time in her life and she didn't have the information. She didn't have the knowledge," he said.

"So I decided to call a friend of mine, Sibusiso Vilani, a mountaineer, the first black African to summit Everest. I told him I had an idea: I would like to climb Kilimanjaro and because this might be my first and last time, I want to do it for a good cause, to make sure at the end of the day, even if I die on the mountain, there would be a cause that I was championing."

He sought to create awareness on the plight of young girls, especially underprivileged young girls, who do not have access to sanitary pads, and also to link the climb to Mandela Day on July 18.

"We own Madiba as South Africans and Africans, so let's champion the education around Mandela Day so that people understand that we need to go beyond the 18th of July," Mabaso said.

"We went in 2012, we supported more than 5 000 girls, then we went in 2013, we supported about 10 000 girls, then we went in 2014 and we supported more than 100 000 girls. We are going this year to support 270 000 girls."

Imbumba has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and other stakeholders, some of whom are going on the climb. It hopes the programme will reach two million girls in South Africa by 2020.

"That's our five-year plan but we feel we are making great progress towards it and we are looking forward to getting there, doing it and making it a success," Mabaso said.

Access to sanitary protection

Research shows that the majority of girls who do not have access to adequate sanitary protection miss up to 50 days of school a year. 

"Some of them use unhygienic materials, because they don't have the adequate products. They risk their health but also, when they miss school, they just become less and less interested in education and classes."

"This [often] translates into teenage pregnancies. Now they have sugar daddies, because they do nothing, they just hang around at home. It [also] leads to the many school dropouts we see on a daily basis because there is no connection, there is no support."

Trek4Mandela aims to empower these girls and "make sure they are able to pursue their dreams".

Mabaso will be tackling Kilimanjaro for the fourth time, having summited Africa's highest peak successfully on his three previous climbs. 

Others on the trip include the CEOs of the Industrial Development Corporation and Thebe Investment Corporation, Morning Live host Leanne Manas, former eNCA anchor Pat Pillai, rapper ProVerb and officials from the Ekurhuleni municipality and the Banking Association of SA.

They expect to summit Kilimanjaro on Saturday, Mandela Day.

Read more on:    good news  |  mandela day

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