Please enter your e-mail address to receive information about events and new initiatives.
Uganda Initiative Rwenzori Mountains. Rwenzori means "Rainmaker," a fitting title as this mountain range gets more than 8 feet of rain per year. This region, home to 300,000 Bakonjo people, borders the Democratic Republic of Congo and has a storied history of armed conflict. Uganda has seen some of the deadliest violence in African history and more than 3.3 million people have died as a result.
Women in this area have a particularly rough existence as they are considered property of men and basically have no rights no access to education or healthcare or jobs. Diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, cholera, hepatitis, and tuberculosis are not treated and are deadly. The average life expectancy is 42.
The best way to improve conditions for women is to give them some economic power. We came up with the idea of training them to be porters and trekking guides since they live at the base of the mountains and could work close to home. Since women routinely did most of the physical labor in these communities, we knew they had the physical strength to be successful in these jobs. But the Bakonjo people believed the mountains to be the home of their gods, and they had been told for generations that these gods would be angry if women ventured up to the glaciers of the Rwenzoris.
Given the longstanding cultural belief that Bakonjo women should not go the mountains coupled with the fact that these women had never been allowed access to capital, we expected to meet with some resistance when we initially proposed the idea of training them to be guides and porters. In addition, we were concerned about the reaction from the villagers as training these women to work in the Rwenzoris would certainly mean a loss of jobs for local men. This would require some serious negotiating with community leaders.
After lengthy discussions with the head of Rwenzori Mountaineering Services and some of the village officials, we were granted permission to train local women to work in the mountains. Seven women came forward and expressed an interest in working with us, so we negotiated with the head of the guiding company (RMS) and got them paying jobs as porters on our climb of Mt Stanley (16, 763´). Our efforts were further strengthened when the male guides and porters agreed to work side by side with us to help train these women.
The first Bakonjo women completed the Rwenzori trek and in addition earned a paycheck for the very first time -- they made history! They ultimately realized that they could change the course of their futures as most of them are single mothers who previously had no way to support their children. The women we trained in 2005 have continued to work in these jobs and in our humble opinion are some of the best and strongest porters and guides working in the Rwenzoris.
The Climb High Foundation continues to train additional women to work in these mountains and each time we go back we are met with a larger group of women anxious to go to the mountains and to develop the skills they need to become self-reliant We believe that what weve started in Uganda could morph into something really big there and that we could change not only the quality of life for women in these villages, but also provide a catalyst for social change in the community.
In partnership with 85 Broads, the Climb High Foundation helped to build several new schools in Nepal and Uganda that now educate more than 2,000 students. The school in Masaka, Uganda is for speech and hearing-impaired AIDS orphans and provides not only education, but also room and board since these children are not accepted in most orphanages because of their disabilities. These projects engaged the local community as well, involving local leaders, parents and children in the planning and building of the schools and their curricula. This model of community ownership produces a deep sense of commitment and ultimately has a long-lasting impact on education in these regions.