In an effort to bring the devastating effects of the world’s sex-for-sale industry to the forefront, 47 women from around the world are preparing to climb Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro during the U.S. commemoration of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Organizers of The Freedom Climb, scheduled to take place on Jan. 11, said they plan to raise awareness and funds to combat oppression, slavery, exploitation, and global trafficking. The event is meant to symbolize the challenging climb marginalized women face while climbing out of the oppression of human trafficking.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world, towering over Tanzania at 19,340 feet. The mountain's summit is known as Uhuru Peak. Uhuru is the Swahili word for "freedom."
It is estimated that there are 27 million slaves in the world today, trapped in various forms of bondage and abuse. Three out of four are women. Eight hundred thousand people will be sex-trafficked this year. Eighty percent will be female and 50% will be children, according to recent reports.
The idea for the climb originated with Cathey Anderson. In 2010, she and her husband, Mark, began working with Operation Mobilization, an international organization that mobilizes people to live and share the Gospel. The group helped them become aware of the global issues regarding human trafficking.
Anderson was troubled by the statistics and effects of human trafficking on women and children. Her desire to combat the problem led her to organize The Freedom Climb. She began asking friends if they wanted to join her and the idea took off with the help of sponsorship from Operation Mobilization.
“We know we will not end slavery and human trafficking with this climb. We can, however, bring hope and an opportunity for freedom to women and children who currently have none," Anderson said in a statement.
“Twenty-seven women from the U.S. are participating, five from Canada, 10 from Africa, [along with] others from India, Russia and Cambodia,” Wendy Bucceri, a spokesperson for the climb, told The Christian Post Wednesday. Currently, the women are training and raising funds for the climb.
South African climber Suria Scholtz said in a release, "It is for me personally a very special journey. It is my prayer that women will be able to identify with their oppressed sisters in various parts of the world and that God will create compassion in their hearts to become involved in their climb to freedom."
The women participating in the climb are using funds collected to cover travel costs and use any additional money for projects listed on the Operation Mobilization website. The programs by the ministry are designed to empower women and children to break free from oppressive conditions. Three types of projects listed on the website are Rescue & Rehabilitation, Development and Prevention.
Some of the projects include providing trafficking rehab for women in India, helping women in the Middle East start small businesses, and giving supplies to people in Argentina in order to make backpacks for school children.
Operation Mobilization said these projects are important in providing work and dignity for those previously sold into slavery. It also helps stop the cycle of human trafficking because it removes reasons for poor families to sell their daughters into the trade. The ministry provides job skills training and micro loans for women to provide for their families and start small businesses.
Operation Mobilization’s goal for 2012 is to impact 10,000 women and children worldwide by providing solutions and job opportunities through projects like these and through awareness raised by The Freedom Climb.