Peak performance

The JSE’s participation in the Trek4Mandela expedition is evidence of its dedication to improving the lives of girls

Peak performance

Standing on top of mount kilimanjaro – the highest point in Africa – is a humbling and profound experience. More so when the climb is achieved as a dedication to Nelson Mandela’s legacy and the empowerment of girls. This is the opinion of the JSE’s Human Resources Director, Palesa Ntoagae, who was one of two representatives from the exchange who took part in this year’s Trek4Mandela expedition, an annual outing to summit the continent’s highest mountain.

In the words of the Imbumba Foundation, the expedition organisers, Trek4Mandela ‘brings together inspired individuals from corporate and public backgrounds to assist in raising funds and creating awareness for the Caring4Girls programme’. The initiative provides sanitary pads for disadvantaged girls, especially in rural areas, in an effort to ensure that they don’t miss school. It also provides reproductive hygiene education.

First organised by social entrepreneur Richard Mabaso in 2012, Trek4Mandela celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with two expeditions – the 18 July Milestone Climb (Mandela Day) plus a Super Women Climb on 9 August 2022 (Women’s Day), which was an all-female outing with ‘strong and powerful women from all walks of life to climb the highest peak in Africa and honour those who fought for the liberation of women before them’.

The JSE believes in an equal society for men and women, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 of gender equality is one of its priority goals, according to Ntoagae. ‘We advocate for gender-mainstreaming and do other initiatives internally to mimic what we want to see in society. Gender equality is a pillar of our CSI strategy, and we support the Imbumba Foundation behind the Trek4Mandela Expedition because it fits with our ideal that no child should be left behind in accessing healthcare and education.

‘Period poverty is a real issue that tips the scales unfairly for women from a young age and we hope that, with our contribution, young girls are able to go to school every day of the month, and use their education to empower themselves, build their confidence and secure their financial independence.’

Research by the foundation has revealed that girls from poor backgrounds could miss up to 50 days of school each year due to menstrual-related challenges.

The JSE supports about 1 200 girls at two high schools in Gauteng and Limpopo with menstrual protection.

Ntoagae says she personally volunteered for this year’s initiative as it was a wonderful opportunity to partner with her fellow exco member Vuyo Lee in representing the JSE’s corporate sponsorship.

‘However, along the way, my reason for doing this evolved so many times and became deeply personal. I am an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, and I care very deeply for keeping the girl child at school. My experience summiting Kilimanjaro evolved into a deep personal lesson about myself, my resilience, the power of my mind and my sense of purpose.

‘At some points it was physically challenging for my body to carry on, but miraculously I kept going, one step at a time. The whole experience was magical, and I will forever cherish the experience of walking through and sleeping above the clouds. I feel enriched by this deeply transformative opportunity.’

Ntoagae adds the JSE prides itself as being a vehicle for driving inclusive growth and shared prosperity. ‘We can only achieve this through working together with social partners to solve the challenges faced by society and the economy. We all have the power to take action that can positively affect others in a good way. Making a difference is no longer the question; rather, we should ask ourselves what kind of difference we want to make. ’

By Patrick Farrell
Image: Gallo/Getty Images