When A School Meal Meets A Girl’s Dream

 It was dawn in Tanzania, and a group of ten determined women – 7 from Nepal, 3 from Africa – took a deep breath as they reached the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. They were the first all-women team to scale it. What was the first thing they did to celebrate? They unfurled the blue and white World Food Programme flag -- and then they raised it high. 

“We are on the top! Nothing is impossible if we struggle to pursue our dreams,” Nim Doma Sherpa, one of the women from Nepal, said from the crest of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

WFP school meals can’t move the mountains young women in the developing world face. With determination and hard work, however, they can give young women the nutrition and opportunity to overcome them – step by step. That’s why this group of women came together from different parts of the world to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro ahead of International Women’s Day, a global celebration marking the achievements of women: to show the world what young women can accomplish when they receive the right nutrition and an education growing up.

Nim Doma knows the power of school meals first-hand. As a girl in Nepal, the promise of a nutritious daily WFP meal first motivated her parents to send her to school. “At first my parents sent me to school so I could eat lunch,” she said. “But gradually I became interested in learning.” Those school meals fuelled some incredible things. At 16, she became the youngest woman to scale Mt. Everest. Now, reaching the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro is one step towards her current ambition of climbing the tallest peaks on all seven continents.  “Through my own experiences, I have learned that education and hard work can take you places. I hope our story will inspire girls to continue their studies and to believe that nothing is impossible to achieve,” she said.

Joining Nim Doma on the trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro was an incredible teacher named Anna from the other side of the world. A member of the Hadzabe tribe, a nearly extinct hunter-gatherer group in Tanzania, she worked hard to learn at school and realize her dream of becoming a teacher. Now, seeing the energy WFP school meals give her students, she works to set an example and inspire her students to see all that’s possible in their lives.

“I had to fight to receive an education when I was growing up and I certainly had to fight to get up this mountain,” Anna said. “Now, as a teacher, I see every day the struggle that young Tanzanian girls go through to attend school. I never thought I’d have this amazing opportunity to show girls and young women everywhere what you can achieve through sheer determination.”

For these women, being a role model isn’t just about climbing mountains: it’s about breaking down the barriers between women and an education, and between women and achieving their dreams. Nim Doma might not have liked school at first, but she became the first in her family of seven to earn a high school diploma. Anna too paved a new path for women like her. “I’ll probably be the first Hadzabe, certainly the first Hadzabe woman to climb Kili,” she said, using the local name for Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Hlubi Mboya, an actress from South Africa and WFP Ambassador Against Hunger who joined the group of women, perfectly captured the dream of what they had just realized in her message to young women everywhere from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. “Never give up, be your own hero, never quit, never fear failure,” she said.

As they make their descent, the team will visit schools around Tanzania to share their inspiring stories and talk about the importance of education. 

You don’t need to be a mountain climber to know that small steps taken again and again will help you accomplish your goals. Small steps are just as powerful when it comes to our goal of solving hunger.  A simple school meal might just look like lunch. For young girls growing up like Nim Doma, however, its daily nutrition will help them reach their dreams.