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In a new documentary, Exodus Travels follows the trekking experience of Team GB Hockey champion and Olympic Gold Medalist, Crista Cullen to tell the story of the pioneering young female porters who are changing the face of Mt Kilimanjaro.
The 22-minute film, entitled Ngumu – which is the Swahili word for porter and translated it means ‘tough’ – raises awareness of the challenges and advancements of women on the mountain and promotes the growth of the female workforce.
Olly Pemberton, Exodus’ award-winning director, observes: “While being a porter on the world’s highest free-standing mountain is hard enough. Being a female porter in a heavily male dominated role brings a whole extra set of challenges. To put it into perspective, on Kilimanjaro currently only 18% of the workforce are women. Ten years ago, there were none.”
Cullen, who has Kenyan heritage and speaks Swahili, set out to experience exactly what these women do each day and to experience life as a female porter. It was the first-time Crista had ever climbed a mountain and she completed the journey up Kilimanjaro carrying a 20kg bag on her head, and a small rucksack on her back, as the locals do.
Said Cullen: “Taking part in a journey that took me out of my comfort zone and into an environment where I felt personally both mentally and physically challenged was incredibly rewarding. It was exciting to be a part of a female team breaking down gender barriers and proving that the only thing that really matters is resilience.”
She continued: “Charitable work has always been close to my heart and I feel I have a responsibility to bring attention to causes that help women to reach a better equilibrium, especially in Africa. Exodus’ initiative is a great vehicle to bring better standards of living to hardworking women in Tanzania and it is our hope, even beyond.”
For over 30 years, Exodus has operated the Kilimanjaro treks. Female and male porters are considered to be the backbone of these climbs, allowing travellers to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit in comfort.
As part of one of their charitable initiatives, the Porter Project, Exodus provides sponsorship programs to locals, which includes first aid courses, English tuition and a guide training course.
This year, Exodus sponsored two female porters to complete the Mweka Guide Certification Course.
Alicia Peter, who has been a female porter for four years, says that: “When we first started women were behind and if there was a lot of men it was very intimidating because they thought we couldn’t do the job. This led to negative comments and gave us a hard time.”
But Peter notes that: “Now it’s different as we carry 20 kilos just like the men and we complete the job. We all work together to achieve the same goal as one team.”
Travellers can help support the porters of Kilimanjaro by taking on their own challenge to reach the summit on these routes with Exodus Travels on the Lemosho Route or the Rongai Route .
For more on Exodus Travels, click here.
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