Poorna Malavath and Kavya Manyapu have made it almost second nature to investigate the secrets of the deepest labyrinths in space or the summits of the highest mountains in the world.
Malavath made it to the summit of Mount Everest in 2014, becoming the youngest woman to ever reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain at the age of 13. Manyapu’s research has included designing space suits, and Malavath made it to the summit of Mount Everest.
As part of their campaign, Project Shakthi, which raises funds for girls’ education, these two women have channeled their curiosity into climbing some of the world’s most challenging mountains.
They climbed a 6,012-meter virgin peak in Ladakh, India, at the end of August with the intention of using the metaphorical and literal symbolism of blazing a trail. This peak had never been climbed before and had not been mapped.
Malavath, an experienced mountaineer, faced difficult obstacles on the mountain, even though he had never climbed it before. There were no trails to follow, and Malavath had no advice from previous climbers to cling to.
Malavath tells CNN Sport, “We have to prepare ourselves mentally to accept everything.” Therefore, it is completely different, and it has provided me with a great deal more information to help others.
Climbing a virgin peak was made more difficult by rain that turned to snow at high altitude.
Manyapu tells CNN that the night before the planned departure for the summit bit, “it actually snowed at our high camp, which meant avalanche conditions on the mountain we wanted to climb that day.”
We had to quickly return together, make a safety decision, and then get ready for the next day. Therefore, it was very difficult.
Even though Manyapu had undergone extensive training, the challenges were even more difficult for a climber with relatively little experience.
“Poorna and I frequently discussed the following while we were in the tent: Consider the possibility that, you know, we will not have the option to come to the culmination, you know, imagine a scenario in which this. What if that?'” Says Manyapu.
“However at that point we would constantly like return and energize one another and inspire each other that, you know, we should simply approach it slowly and carefully.”
‘I’ve always been inspired by her story’
The mission and tagline of Project Shakthi served as the group’s source of inspiration during the trek’s most trying times: We climb so that girls can read,’ a cause that is very close to Malavath and Manyapu’s hearts.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Manyapu realized that she could assist girls without the same support system in gaining access to opportunities. During her own childhood, her family moved from India to the United States “to help fulfill her dreams.”
She goes on to say, “I have a three-year-old daughter, so when I look at her, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make the world at least 1% better for her and her generation.”
Malavath and Manyapu met for the first time in 2019 while Manyapu was pregnant with her daughter, despite the fact that they come from the same Indian village.
Manyapu says, “Since 2014, I’ve always been inspired by [Malavath’s] story.” I called her and mentioned that I wanted to start a project where we could climb for a good cause.
“How about taking our passion to serve a purpose of empowering, educating, and elevating underprivileged school children? We’ve done things for our passion so far.”
When Malavath, then 13, set out on her ascent of Mount Everest, she was unaware of the inequality issues plaguing society.
She claims, “As I continued climbing the highest mountains on seven continents, I came to know about that society.” In addition, a lot of girls live in poverty in rural areas and are denied any opportunities.
“I always think about the students who are studying with me and the people who live in the villages… One of my friends got married when she was about 14 or 15 years old, and she now has two children who are attending school. I also recently completed my education.
Malavath remembers vomiting from the exertion of climbing Everest, being stuck on the expedition for “like 50 days due to the weather,” and being determined to reach the summit.
She declares, “It was a different aim to prove that girls can do anything when I got the opportunity to climb Mount Everest.” Then, possibly because the mountains have taught me so much, I became a mountain lover.
The project will aim to change people’s perceptions of what women can accomplish and highlight stories that can serve as role models in addition to raising funds for education.
Project Shakthi will collaborate with the AVS Academy in the United States to match student volunteers with girls sponsored by the organization for one-on-one mentoring.
Manyapu asserts, “I think we both bring a story that really would help them see that what a person can do, a girl can do.” because I think representation is important. Even though women are increasingly appearing in a variety of fields in this generation, there is still a significant gender gap to close.
According to the country’s Annual Status of Education Report, the number of girls attending school has increased since the landmark Right to Education Act was passed by the parliament in August 2009, making education free and compulsory for all children under the age of 14. However, the national averages obscure differences between states.
Despite almost equal enrollment rates for both sexes, completion rates remain disparate. In low-income countries, the World Bank estimates that only 36% of girls and 44% of boys complete lower secondary school.
Project Shakthi has also set its sights on expanding its objectives in order to address this global problem.
As part of the next phase of Project Shakthi, Manyapu and Malavath will climb Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America at 6,961 meters, in December. They will invite anyone who is interested in climbing to join them.
During this time, the $12,000 that the project has raised thus far has already been used to select the girls who will receive sponsorship.
Manyapu asserts, “Poorna and I actually visited our village back in India right after we finished our expedition of the virgin peak.” Additionally, due to our ancestry, we are beginning in our village.
As Malavath and Manyapu carry on their mission to ensure that girls have access to an education, the project will eventually aim to sponsor girls all over the world, thereby empowering them and exposing them to opportunities that would otherwise remain hidden.