Are you sitting comfortably Then spare a thought for a group of women who are climbing Africa’s tallest mountain to raise money for ORT South Africa’s work with vulnerable women. After months of training, the 18-strong team reached Mount Kilimanjaro today (Thursday), which is South Africa’s National Women’s Day. They will spend the first couple of days acclimatizing before embarking on the five-day, bitterly cold hike to the summit 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level.
The money they raise will further the work of ORT SA’s Women’s Empowerment division, founded as a practical response to the increasing divorce rate, the challenging economic times and the large number of women on welfare. In particular, it will go towards setting up a Women’s Empowerment Academy and a centre to create gainful employment.
In its first six months of operation the division has trained more than 200 vulnerable women in computer skills, financial and budgeting skills, and motivation and goal setting. It has also helped women find jobs and has set up a free legal intervention programme to help clients receive much need maintenance from ex-husbands shirking their responsibilities.
Division Manager Robyn Smookler said: “When dealing with these women on a daily basis you understand the magnitude of their difficulties. It seems that these women have a daily mountain to climb almost too high to bear. What better campaign, then, than to get women to make this climb and physically and metaphorically show that we can conquer mountains “ﾓ and, in so doing, support other women to conquer their mountains.”?
The idea for the hike came from Paul Bacher, CEO of ORT JET (Jewish Entrepreneurial Training) “ﾓ his wife, New York-born mother-of-six Chev Bacher, is part of the climbing team.
“I can think of no greater cause to climb for than ORT SA/ORT JET,”? she said. “It’s a fantastic place where struggling businesses and individuals, particularly women, are given tremendous assistance to get back on their feet. It’s all about empowerment and dignity.”?
But the climb itself is also a powerful statement of sisterly solidarity and a potent opportunity for personal growth.
“We started off as a group of women running, huffing and puffing, up hills in our local suburbs and now we’re taking on the highest peak in Africa,”? said Kate Gershuni. “Through absolute faith in ourselves, our abilities, our strengths, our passion, our group commitment, we have turned into an empowered team.”?
Team mate Noelle Moshi, who was born in the Tanzanian town of Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro, added: “As the ladies say, “ﾘthe mountain won’t get any smaller, but I can grow bigger.'”?
For Ms Bacher it will be an opportunity for thanksgiving.
“I cannot wait to stand on the peak of Africa just as the sun rises, overlooking the breakthaking snow capped glaciers, the magnificence of our beautiful world and to thank God for every big and little blessing and opportunity in my life.”?
Also on the team is businesswoman Daphna Horowitz. She said that the climb would be a journey of meaning and growth not only for herself but for women across South Africa who would be inspired and encouraged to know that they can achieve any dream they set their hearts and minds on.
But the most immediate need was to raise money to help such women in practical and relevant ways.
“As we go on in our daily lives, hundreds of women across our communities battle a never-ending onslaught of hunger, anxiety and self-doubt,”? Ms Horowitz said. “Their decisions involve making choices between providing a roof over their children’s heads, or food in their lunch boxes. They rely on hand-outs, food parcels and the generosity of strangers”ﾦ We believe that the best way to give to someone is to equip them not with a food parcel but with the ability to earn, not with a welfare cheque but with marketable skills, not with gratefulness but with dignity.”?
The team has already raised 400,000 Rand (nearly $50,000) but ORT SA’s Laureen Shalpid has appealed for more support.
“The more money we raise the more women we can assist,”? she said, adding that they hope to make the climb an annual event which would not only raise money but also help women taking part “to face their daily challenges head-on”ﾦ [and] break down the fears of facing life.”?
World ORT Director General and CEO Robert Singer has praised Mr Bacher, ORT SA and the climbers for their creativity and devotion.
“This a truly inspirational effort by a group of people who personify the best about ORT. I wish them every success in their fundraising for what promises to be yet another innovative and effective programme and a safe and enjoyable expedition,”? Mr Singer said.