In a country where violence against women and children has reached alarming levels, a group of young people have done what many others wouldn't ever dare to do.These young people embarked on a climb of the highest peak in Namibia, Brandberg in an effort to raise awareness of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and find solutions to help end it.
Waving off the group before departure, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Rosalia Nghidinwa, thanked the team for hearing the call from the ministry to end GBV. "I believe that this bold step that the group has taken will bear fruit. We regard you all as ambassadors for the government and the nation at large and hope that you will help us in fighting GBV and all other social ills," she said.
The group had to endure three days of extreme physical, mental and psychological strain in an environment which most were never exposed to. Apart from conquering their greatest fears, the women and men forged friendships and learnt valuable life lessons that they otherwise would not have learnt in an entire lifetime. Each and every night after hours of non-stop climbing, the group would sit around the camp fire and hold discussions on the causes and possible ways to address the social ill which is eating up at the fabric of our society. Gender Based Violence never left the thoughts of the climbers as they would draw similarities between abusive relationships and the pain one goes through when climbing the huge boulders and rocks of Brandberg.
By the end of her climb, after reaching the highest point on Brandberg at 2,606m above sea level, Hem Matsi was upbeat about what the group achieved. "Although I climbed Kilimanjaro, Brandberg was quite tough. One thing I know now is that ending violence against women and children is twice as hard as climbing Brandberg. If a group of young people could make it to the top of this mountain though, everybody can work together to find a solution to GBV."
Che Ulenga, who also reached the peak, said that her experience on the mountain gave her time to think and made her sacrifice a lot but at the same time, she appreciated the discussions on GBV. "We were so chilled out in the evenings, while talking to eachother, solutions would come up as to how we can can end GBV. I suggested that self-defence classes be made a part of the educational curriculum. Hopefuly this will empower our girls to defend themselves," she said.
The group of climbers who went to Brandberg were as diverse as the wildlife and flora found on the Brandberg landscape. It consisted of students, fashion designers, journalists, diplomats, poets, civil servants, a radio presenter as well as a representative from Mount Kilimanjaro initiative. Everyone learnt to never again to judge people based on their looks. The clearest example being the petite Frieda Haindaka who most thought wouldn't make it far with her Disney backpack and pink lips. She ended up being one of the strongest and most consistent climbers, something that even some men couldn't achieve. Fortunately, the group made it safely back to Windhoek. Teamwork and determination helped them survive and very soon, they will draw up a proposal with solutions to tackle GBV. This proposal will also be sent to the Minister of Gender and Child Welfare and will be viewed as the voice of the youth on how to tackle this social ill.