With the support of the United Nations and partners, an all-female team will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to highlight the importance of women's rights and in particular, education for girls.
The team, which will commence their climb tomorrow, is made up of seven Nepalese women who have previously climbed Mount Everest, and three African women, including South African actress and World Food Programme (WFP) National Ambassador Against Hunger, Hlubi Mboya. Many of the women in the team have faced serious challenges to their education and development, and with the climb, they hope to inspire other young women.
"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," said 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 Nepali climbers, Nimdoma Sherpa, was a recipient of WFP school meals before becoming the youngest ever female to climb Mount Everest at the age of 16 - a record she held until last year.
"At first my parents sent me to school just to get the meals," said Ms. 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."
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.
One of the climbers from Nepal ran away at the age of 14 to escape a forced marriage and another was a domestic worker in her teens.
"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."
Their 5,895-metres climb will begin from the northern Tanzanian town of Moshi on Wednesday and if all goes according to plan, they will arrive at the summit on 4 March. A welcoming ceremony is scheduled to take place in Moshi the next day and will be followed by a news conference in Dar es Salaam on 7 March.
The climbers will record a special video message on Mount Kilimanjaro for International Women's Day, observed 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.
The climb is being supported by the Tanzanian Government, WFP and Child Reach International, a non-governmental organization working with communities to improve children's access to education and healthcare.