Rio Olympian Crista Cullen has trekked Mount Kilimanjaro in a bid to highlight the growing number of female porters worldwide.
Kilimanjaro is one of Exodus Travel‘s key trekking destinations and has supported the Kilimanjaro Guide Scholarship Foundation, which runs educational courses during the trekking off-season when employment is scarce.
It gives the porters the chance to learn English, receive training, and improve their employment opportunities.
To date, 800 porters have benefited from the school – nearly exclusively male. Tanzania, a patriarchal society, has meant that it’s always been the men who have gone out to earn a living.
Last October Cullen trekked up Kilimanjaro with a team of female porters – of which there were none 10 years ago – to experience why this project is making such a difference to the lives of these women.
Cullen, who has Kenyan heritage and speaks Swahili, is a trustee of the Exodus Travels Foundation. To understand what these female porters do and to experience life as a female porter, the Rio gold medallist completed the challenge carrying a 20kg bag on her head, as the local porters do.
She said: “I was excited to be offered a great opportunity to put myself out of my comfort zone and into an environment where I felt personally both mentally and physically challenged.
“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.”