What Will You Climb For?

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 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.” 100% 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?

The road may be long and along the way, Georgina points out, “You’re always going to have cynics in the crowd asking ‘What impact does this really make?’” Her answer: it only takes one. Making an impact in one life is enough. As Georgina puts it, “It’s better than not doing anything for anyone.”

So Georgina—an inspiration herself—finds inspiration in organizations like International Medical Corps. In addition to training health workers on rape treatment and supporting evidence-gathering for the prosecution of rape, International Medical Corps runs sensitization campaigns and helps establish female community leaders in DRC. While the impact of this cannot always be seen immediately, Georgina has faith that “the sum of all of our efforts will ultimately drive the change we need.”

Still, change won’t come without awareness. For that, we need messengers like Georgina, who help give voice to the often invisible victims of a hemorrhaging wound: rampant rape with virtual impunity. But while calling this tragedy what it is, Georgina also wants to remind people that Congolese women are “so incredibly strong and resilient—so inspiring in their own way.”

To illustrate her point, Georgina recounts her 2009 visit to a refugee camp in Uganda, where she met with Congolese survivors of sexual violence. On her last day there, the Congolese women danced for Georgina to thank her because, ultimately, “No matter how awful life gets, they dance.” After all, it’s not just about surviving death; it’s about affirming life.

And if we keep dancing—and climbing—change will come.

This #GivingTuesday, ask yourself: what are you willing to climb for? Then do something. Georgina did.

Help us save lives.