Dar es Salaam — They have conquered the world's highest mountain. They have climbed the highest peaks in Europe and Australia. Now, seven Nepali women - members of the most successful all-female team ever to scale Mount Everest - will join three African women to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Their attempt on Kili (5,895 metres) will begin from the northern Tanzanian town of Moshi on Wednesday 27 February. The climb is being supported by Tanzania's Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania National Parks and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The endeavour is being implemented in partnership with Moshi-based based Child Reach International, a non-governmental organisation working with communities to improve children's access to eduation and healthcare.
"In Africa and Asia, young women and girls face barriers to education - early marriage and pregnancy, household duties, shortage of money for school fees and a preference for sending boys to school instead of girls," says WFP Country Representative Richard Ragan. "All the team members have had to climb their own personal mountains, overcoming challenges to attend school and get where they are today. We hope their determination will be an example to youth everywhere."
One of the seven Nepali climbers, Nimdoma Sherpa, was a recipient of WFP school meals before becoming, at the age of 16 in 2008, the youngest ever female to summit Everest - a record she held until last year.
"At first my parents sent me to school just to get the meals," says Nimdoma. "While there, I was encouraged to focus on my studies and this opened so many doors for me. I've learned that education and hard work can really take you places and I'm excited to be continuing my journey by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro."
One of the seven Nepali climbers ran away from home at the age of 14 to escape a forced marriage and another was a domestic worker in her teens. Among the African climbers is Ashura Kayupayupa, a youth activist advocating against early marriage, and teacher Anna Philipo Indaya from north central Tanzania's nearly extinct Hadzabe hunter-gatherer people.
They will be joined on the Kili climb by WFP National Ambassador Against Hunger, Hlubi Mboya, one of the the most popular TV actresses in southern Africa.
"By staying in school and getting an education, girls can grow up to lead fulfilling lives and really contribute to their families and communities," says Hlubi Mboya. "Providing them with a daily school meal helps them grow strong and concentrate on their studies. I like to think each step we take up Kili will bring girls in Africa a bit closer to reaching their potential."
The climbers will take the Machame route up Kili and, if all goes according to plan, arrive at the summit on 4 March. A welcoming ceremony, slated to take place in Moshi on 5 March will be followed by a news conference in Dar es Salaam on 7 March. The climbers will record a special video message on Mt. Kilimanjaro for International Women's Day on 8 March. They will also visit schools in Dar es Salaam and Arusha to tell their stories and highlight the importance of girls' education.
Keep up with the team's progress via Twitter #WFPKili2013
Accounts to follow @hlubimboya @jennbcat @wfp_africa @wfp_media