By: Irene Basson

The Trek4Mandela was established in 2012 by the founder of the Caring4Girls initiative, Richard Mabaso. This expedition was established in a bid to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged adolescent girls with the desire to discredit the obscurities surrounding the changes associated with this important milestone.

The concept of Trek4Mandela and Caring4Girls was sparked by a conversation between his mother and niece that he overheard, about his niece’s first menstrual cycle. Mabaso thought to himself that something had to be done to ensure that talks surrounding things such as puberty and menstrual cycles took place before the event actually occurred.

Mabaso, who had always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, now had even more reason: he not only wanted to say that he had summited the mountain, but he also wanted to climb it in the name of Mandela Day and to raise funds to purchase sanitary pads for girls in rural areas.
“I never ever in my wildest dreams anticipated the initiative becoming this big. It has been an amazing journey but with lots of challenges, especially trying to tap into the CSI space, which is oversubscribed in South Africa. What we managed to do innovatively was to bring in Kilimanjaro – whereby we can give people something exciting, but at the same time do good,” says Mabaso.

Since its inception, the Trek4Mandela expedition has gained some momentum with a number of people backing the initiative such as Lil-lets, the Thebe Foundation and Thebe Ya Mosadi, the Mandela family as well as other well renowned South African celebrities. 2015 is no different; a number of individuals have taken to partaking in summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in the name of Mandela Day but also to raise awareness and support the Caring4Girls initiative. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory’s CEO Sello Hatang, Thebe Foundation’s CEO Mokgethi Tshabalala, Thebe Oil & Gas CEO Zukie Siyotula, Thebe Service’s Jerry Mabena will join the likes of Morning Live’s Leanne Manas and Luvuyo Mandela on the climb to the top of Africa’s highest mountain. The group aims to summit Kilimanjaro on 18 July 2015.

“One of the things that Graca Machel said to us at the send-off last year was that we should continue doing this, knowing and understanding one thing and one thing only: that we are standing on the shoulders of giants – the Madibas, the Tambos, the Sisulus and all the struggle heroes who have paved the way for us to be able to have the freedom to create new ideas, and execute those ideas in the name of doing good and using them – struggle heroes as our mirrors,” adds Mabaso.

Mabaso, who will be leading the trek with partner and South African adventurer Sibusiso Vilane, continues: “I guarantee that I will summit that mountain, and on behalf of the climbers we will make sure that the target of 270 000 girls is reached.”

Sello Hatang, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, who will also be climbing Kilimanjaro, says: “The fact that you are all here says that we care about these girl children and their futures. “It’s important that we note how many peoples’ lives have been touched thus far and how we want to quadruple that number. We have to ensure that our girls get the maximum support they can in order to be able to go to school. We cannot afford to have people who failed to go to school because of a need that is so basic, that we could have fulfilled,” adds Hatang.

It is important to play an active role in this initiative whether or not one will be summiting the mountain. We can all participate by sending an SMS with the word “Girlchild” to 42513 and pledge R30 or donate sanitary towels which can be dropped off at Thebe House in Rosebank. February 2015 saw the launch of the fourth annual Trek4Mandela Kilimanjaro Challenge.This year the initiative aims to raise enough funds to ensure that 270 000 girl children will not miss a day of school.