April 2016

Walk against sexual abuse for CLIMB

Since 2009, in the USA, April is commemorated as the “Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)”, a month dedicated to education on how to prevent sexual violence. Even though this is not an international commemoration, I have decided to also observe the month by raising awareness about sexual violence throughout the month.

I have actually started on this quest last year May when I started CLIMB against sexual abuse in South Africa and organised key events to highlight this problem e.g. the Drakensberg-Maluti climb in Aug  2015

 and most recently walked the gruesome Tankwa Camino in South Africa.

So I have trekked the harsh yet beautiful Karoo (a semi desert area covering the Northern and Western Cape in South Africa). I have hiked from Calvinia in the Northern Cape to Rhodona in the Western Cape covering a distance of about 244 km in 9 days from 25 March 2016 to 2 April 2016. The aim was to raise awareness about sexual abuse and funds as well as to practice for the Kilimanjaro climb planned later in the year. The event was sponsored by my foundation, the Florence Masetla Foundation.

The Tankwa Camino is the South African version of the Spanish pilgrimage walk called the Camino De Santiago, which starts from Calvinia in the Northern Cape and ends in  Ceres in the Western Cape covering a distance of about 259 km over a period of  10 days.  During the day the hikers were faced with the harsh Karoo sun and icy cold windy evenings; at times coupled with rain.  The Tankwa Camino organiser transported the hiker’s hiking equipment from one campsite to the next and provided the hikers with a warm supper each night and water and fruits throughout the day. The organiser also made turns during the day driving the route to check whether the hikers need any assistance eg water, more fruits or a jump into the bakkie for the reminder of the hike – which most hikers avoided unless necessary.

Armed with an emergency raincoat, an air pillow (to sit on during the breaks), a hat,  bottle water, some snacks and other necessities in the backpack,  I had to walk on average between 25 km and 30 km each day.

The Tankwa Camino is physically, mentally and spiritually taxing. It took a lot of courage each morning to walk again in the harsh Karoo sun; to sit each icy cold evening in pain waiting for dinner to be served whilst listening to stories and instructions been given in Afrikaans which I barely can understand (even though communications are send in both English & Afrikaans, the trek organisers speak mainly in Afrikaans during the hike). Each time I had to hold myself from changing the campaign from #WalkingAgainstSexualAbuse to #AfrikaansMustFall. It took a great deal to remind myself why I was walking the Tankwa and my why was greater than getting into any racial arguments or giving up halfway through the journey.

At the same time the Tankwa Camino gave me a lot. It gave me something to think, cry and laugh about. I have met some amazing people who are doing a lot to effect positive change in South Africa. Similarly there were other people walking the Tankwa for various causes either to raise funds or awareness or to celebrate survivorship (e.g. I have met a lady walking to celebrate a year after her cancer chemotherapy). I have even received several gifts e.g. a hat (to keep my ego in check), brand new trekking poles (to wish me luck for my next climbs) and a letter of appreciation from one of the hikers thanking me for impacting her life during the walk – I cry each time I read the letter! The Tankwa Camino gave me more than I have initially signed up for; memories, friendship, raised questions about race vs racism etc.

MORE ABOUT the Florence Masetla Foundation and CLIMB against sexual abuse:

  • The Florence Masetla Foundation started in 2013 initially with a focus on the research and championing the use of technology in education to help eradicate poverty through access to quality education and information for decision making and active citizenship. The foundation  has subsequently expanded to include; Youth educational programs, mentorship and sponsorship. Through the foundation, we pioneered an initiative called CLIMB against sexual abuse in South Africa.

CLIMB is a 501 (c) tax exempted non-profit organization registered in New York City United State of America, which is committed to breaking the silence on sexual violence and creating a powerful movement of change. The organisation is continuously expanding with a presence in more than 17 countries across 5 continents and with a team of more than 50 passionate leaders and members serves a world without borders, spreading awareness, undoing the stigma, and challenging societal mindset.

The foundation sponsored the first climb in Aug 2015, where  a group of hikers composed, of sexual abuse survivors and their supporters, to climb the Drakensberg-Maluti Mountains in South Africa. The climb was widely covered by major media houses (eNCA, 702 Talk Radio, Power FM etc.) in South Africa and featured at the One Young World opening ceremony (Global changemakers in action segment.). Yusuf Omar the report at eNCA, who has captured the first climb using only his Iphone used the footage as an entry to the 2016 international Mobile Journalism award hosted by the Thomson Foundation to which he has won (amongst other prices) a first class trip to the 2016 Mobile Journalism Conference to be held in Dublin Ireland in April 2016.