Durbanville resident Mari van Wyk and a number of other participants are scheduled to summit Mount Kilimanjaro on Women’s Day, August 9. Photo: Supplied
Cape Town – For many, summitting Mount Kilimanjaro represents a milestone, a physical accomplishment and a reminder of the power of the human mind and body to accomplis

This year it will mean much more for a group of women led by Professor Thuli Madonsela. The Thuli Madonsela Executive Climb, sponsored by LexisNexis SA, addresses the battle young girls face every day in South Africa.

The former public protector will lead an expedition of influential women up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise enough funds for the Caring4Girls menstrual hygiene programme to ensure that girl children will not miss a day of school and will receive much-needed accessibility to sanitary towels.

Scheduled to summit on Women’s Day, August 9, they will be the second of two summit groups in this year’s annual Trek4Mandela initiative.

While Madonsela was yesterday unable to respond to questions, one of the women who will stand by her side throughout the journey is Durbanville resident Mari van Wyk.

“These young girls have many mountains to climb on a daily basis - the circumstances they live in, many don’t have regular meals each day, clothing, transport, etc - and to be without such a basic necessity as a sanitary pad when they enter womanhood is unthinkable,” said Van Wyk.

Two challenges have determined Van Wyk’s own direction in life: having a son with Down Syndrome, and she herself suffered a series of migrainous strokes which impacted her speech, memory and physical abilities.

She recovered well enough to resume her duties at work, but it took until last year for change to really take effect.

A renewed focus on living a healthier lifestyle has seen her progress from walking to jogging, to running, and a deeper understanding of how to achieve a much healthier diet.

“I want to climb this mountain for (the girls), removing one more obstacle from their daily battles, which will make it possible for them to attend school and be educated,” she added.

Over weekends, the participants take on different hiking trails in Jonkershoek or on Table Mountain, and mandatory hikes in the Drakensberg.

“Professor Madonsela inspires, is a woman with moral values, backbone and integrity. She has the most contagious laugh, excellent sense of humour and can still appreciate small things. 

"To see her in awe about the wonders of nature when we do our hiking in Stellenbosch is heart-warming.

“I see it as a blessing. She is such a humble person. It still surprises her if people recognise her when we are out in the mountains,” Van Wyk said.

Individuals can make a pledge of R30 towards fund-raising by sending an SMS with the name “MARI” to 42513.

Cape Times