Female porters on Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Our Female Staff on Kilimanjaro – 2023 Progress Update

Our mission For female empowerment

Did you know that at the time of writing this update, we’re an all-female office team here at Earth’s Edge? While we care greatly about all of the projects that we undertake, those designed to promote female empowerment and employment in the many countries that we visit resonate with us on a very personal level. We’re passionate about using our resources to provide more job opportunities for the women in these developing countries, not only uplifting them, but by extension, also enhancing the lives of their families and communities. We’ve seen firsthand what women can achieve when given the chance, and we’re committed to opening up as many of these opportunities as we can.

Women on kilimanjaro: the story so far

Our project to increase the number of female staff on our teams began ambitiously in 2022, when we announced the first ever expedition to Kilimanjaro featuring an all-female team. We chronicled this event in the inspiring documentary Moving Mountains: The Women of Kilimanjaro, which you can watch below. This trip was a collaboration with the wonderful Galz Gone Wild, and we couldn’t have chosen better partners to help us champion this cause. Since then, we’ve taken this project to Nepal for the Galz Gone Wild Everest Base Camp Trek in 2023, and we’ll be travelling back there with them again at the end of this year!

the goal for hiring more female staff

Historically, the proportion of women working in roles such as porters, guides and support staff on Kilimanjaro has been very low, often cited to be in the range of 1-3% at best. Our goal was to substantially increase the number of female staff we were employing on Kilimanjaro. We set a lofty goal of having at least 30% of our Kilimanjaro staff be female in 2022, increasing consistently from there. This important project began with hiring and training women as porters for the Galz Gone Wild expedition in the summer of 2022.

Today, we want to bring you a transparent update on the progress of this project.

the current update

In 2022, 30% of the approximately 300 staff working across our 23 Kilimanjaro expeditions were female.

Between June to December 2023, we ran 15 trips to Kilimanjaro. An average of 17% of the staff on these trips were women. At its highest, this figure was 22%. Overall, 16% (95) of our porters were women and 28% (27) of our guides were female.

While these numbers may not seem that impressive, they are a huge leap forward compared to where we were three years ago. While our goal will always be to completely shatter the glass ceiling and achieve feats such as an all-female expedition to the summit of Africa’s tallest mountain, these numbers represent steady, solid progress. Realistic figures such as these remind us that there are lots of positives to be taken from our work so far, as well as many opportunities for learning about where we can make improvements in the process of acquiring and retaining female staff.

Between 2022 and 2023, we shifted our focus from merely pursuing numerical targets to identifying incredible women with the necessary skills for the role, and dedicating more resources into developing these skills.

The positives

While the retention rate for the female staff we hired and trained as part of the all-female expedition with Galz Gone Wild didn’t quite meet our expectations, we know that the women who have remained have the necessary aptitude and capabilities required for these demanding roles. A strong team of porters and guides offer our clients the best experience possible on the mountain, and we’re proud that our current female staff can be a part of that. The women who have stayed with us can help us to train our future female hires, and can also inspire others to seek out opportunities in the adventure industry by sharing their own stories. Some of the women who have joined us as porters may want to progress in their careers and train as guides – if you’ve travelled with us recently, you may have met our fantastic guides Lulu and Mariam! 

what we can do going forward

Many of our efforts to promote female equality and employment in the adventure industry have focused on Tanzania, as it is a country where women’s opportunities are often impacted by the culture, in particular strict gender roles. We need to utilise the powerful voices of the talented women now on our Earth’s Edge Tanzania team to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. 

Work on the mountain is also very physically demanding – we plan to assess our hiring and training practices, and find the ways in which we can have our existing staff help support our female porters-in-training, to help them find their feet.

We also lose some female staff for a positive reason! The experience they gain working with us opens up further employment opportunities elsewhere in the industry, for example in safari companies. As part of our goal is not just female employment with us specifically, but for female employment and empowerment as a whole in Tanzania, we’d love to be able to use these women’s stories as inspiring tales of progress to motivate prospective female staff.

how can you help?

The welfare of our porters is paramount to us here at Earth’s Edge, and this includes ensuring that they are well-equipped for their job in the harsh mountain conditions. Our Porter Clothing Drive helps us source necessary gear and equipment for them, but as the number of female porters on our team grows, so does the demand for donations suitable for them! If you have any hiking clothing you no longer need that can be given to our women on Kilimanjaro, please get in touch!

Like an expedition, the journey to change can be challenging and frustrating, but ultimately rewarding. And we won’t stop until we’ve reached our destination.

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