Trek4Mandela helps rural girls stay in school


TREK4MANDELA---textA group from a previous Trek4Mandela expedition on Mount Kilimanjaro. (Image: Trek4Mandela)

When people climb Mount Kilimanjaro it’s usually a personal feat; but for the fourth year running Trek4Mandela’s climb will benefit underprivileged, mainly rural South African girls.

Trek4Mandela benefits Caring4Girls, a programme to provide sanitary towels and menstrual hygiene information to underprivileged girls in rural communities.

Since it was established in 2012, Trek4Mandela has attracted massive interest from the government, the private sector and NGOs locally and internationally. It has generated support for over 50 000 beneficiaries, mainly in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The climb, led by leading South African adventurer Sibusiso Vilane, celebrates Madiba’s legacy through supporting the education of South African girls who cannot afford sanitary towels. Many children cannot afford to buy sanitary towels and end up missing as much as a week a month of school as a result.

The group leaves for Tanzania on 13 July and returns on 20 July. Climbers are expected to summit Kilimanjaro on 18 July, which is Nelson Mandela International Day. In all, there will be 27 climbers, one for each year that Madiba was in prison. Each climber is aiming to raise at least R1.5-million for Caring4Girls.

If you would like to play your part in making sure underprivileged girls get their sanitary requirements and participate in the climb, register with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. There is a brochure with cost estimates.


Trek4Mandela was started in 2012 by Richard Mabaso, the chief executive of Imbumba Foundation, after he overheard a fearful conversation between his mother and his niece about puberty.

He was prompted to do something for underprivileged girls, and approached his friend, Vilane, the first black person in the world to conquer the Three Poles challenge – South Pole, North Pole and Mount Everest twice. He asked Vilane to lead him on his first ever expedition to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of his Mandela Day challenge.

In 2009, the United Nations declared 18 July Nelson Mandela Day International. The purpose is to encourage individuals across the world to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to doing some good in their communities. The 67 minutes represents the number of years that Mandela spent in politics fighting for justice and equal opportunities for all.

On Trek4Mandela’s fourth expedition, 27 company executives, including ETV Sunrise anchor Penny Lebyane, will summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Lebyane told The Citizen newspaper: “I’ve been training, doing hikes and climbing stairs. I also go to Pilates three times a week. I have been through a lot in my life and I believe all the struggles and adversities I’ve overcome have given me the strength to overcome this.”

Lebyane also had an inspirational message for girls facing challenges: “The adversities you face in life are like climbing a mountain. They can be trying and strenuous, but reaching the top is not impossible. You may be tired but if you go another hour or two you can reach you point of rest and try again tomorrow.”

The objectives of the climb are to:

  • Create awareness of the challenges facing impoverished girls from rural and poor schools during their monthly cycles;
  • Raise funds to purchase sanitary towels to keep needy girls in school; and,
  • Educate people about Mandela Day and the need to take action beyond 18 July, thereby helping to make every day a Mandela Day.


Caring4Girls aims to provide puberty and menstrual hygiene training to underprivileged girls, support them with sanitary towels for a minimum period of one year, and give each girl a booklet on menstrual hygiene.

Studies have found that the majority of girls in Africa miss up to 50 days of schooling each year as a result of challenges around their menstrual cycles. This means that on average, a girl may miss up to 300 days (almost a whole year) of schooling over six years.

The non-profit organisation has so far distributed over 67 000 sanitary pads to girls in poor rural communities. With the help of the South Africa Banking Association and the endorsement of the KwaZulu-Natal education department, it has published a booklet to help with the education of girls. So far, more than 100 0000 copies have been printed and distributed.

Through its Puberty and Adolescence Demystified (PAD) campaign, its supports needy girls with sanitary pads, educates them about their body and hormonal changes as well as other related subjects essential for them as they embark on this journey of womanhood.

Dr Kirsten Thompson, from the UK group Irise, said: “Worldwide, millions of women and girls have no information before starting menstruation and no sanitary product, clean toilet or clean water to allow them to cope with their periods.”

Irise found that five out of 10 girls missed school every month as a result of menstruation, contributing to the gender gap, in East Africa.