What Will You Climb For?

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Most of us remember the moment we realized that we care about something bigger than ourselves. Georgina Miranda's came late one night in late 2007 as she flipped through Glamour Magazine looking for haircut ideas and instead found a different kind of inspiration: an article by Eve Ensler about rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was the type of article that "woke you up and wouldn't let you go to sleep," so Miranda stayed up all night researching.

In DRC, an average of 1,150 women are raped every day. When confronted with statistics like that, it's easy to do nothing. But Georgina did something. She climbed five of the world's seven summits, each time vigorously fundraising and spreading the word about gender-based violence in DRC.

Georgina started by contacting local NGOs back in 2007 and deciding to partner with International Medical Corps, a Los Angeles-based international humanitarian relief organization, because it "had the longest track record working in DRC." Then she launched Climb Take Action, a campaign dedicated to "empowering women in war-torn [DRC] to raise awareness about the sexual violence that has plagued women and funds to support their healing." One hundred percent of the funds that Georgina and her fellow climbers raise go to International Medical Corps and V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.

Next March, Georgina will climb Mt. Everest again because she didn't summit last time. Georgina tells me this causally, but I read her account of that Everest climb -- and there's nothing causal about it. Near the top, Georgina had to turn back when her body started breaking down from lack of oxygen. Her last-minute decision saved her life but left her with the searing disappointment of not "making it" after spending three years preparing for one moment.

Yet she's trying again.

A management consultant in San Francisco, Georgina describes herself as "not particularly athletic." But climbing gives her a forum to start the discussion no one really wants to have. While DRC presents an extreme case, one in three women worldwide will be raped and/or beaten in her lifetime. This grim reality resonates deeply -- "as a woman, it's something we can all relate to" -- but it shouldn't have to. When Georgina adds, "Violence against women should not be acceptable -- it's not OK," I can't help thinking how crazy it is that we're still making this simple plea for basic humanity.

What will it take to reach the "summit" where being female no longer poses an inherent risk?