Hiking in office wear to save girls’ dignity



Clad in smart office wear, Eunice Van Schalkwyk and Cobus Steenkamp carried two pink briefcases during their 65-km hike in the Fish River Canyon.

In the Fish River Canyon, shorts and hiking boots are the usual dress code. Today is different. In the distance, two people appear. Dressed in office wear, they are carrying pink briefcases.

No, this is not a hallucination.


They are Cobus Steenkamp, a lecturer in policing at the School of Government Studies, and his friend, Eunice van Schalkwyk, who works at CTEC, an environmental management company. They are on a 65-km hike for a good cause.


Cobus and Eunice spent three days hiking through the Fish River Canyon, which is located in the southern part of Namibia, to raise awareness and money for Project Dignity.


This is a non-profit organisation (NPO) that aims to reduce absenteeism and the dropout rate among schoolgirls by giving them re-usable sanitary wear.


The NPO had a charity drive in Potchefstroom, and that is when they decided to collaborate with the organisation. “We are very passionate about education and the importance of schoolgirls getting educated, so Project Dignity was the perfect NPO for us to contribute to,” says Eunice.


Braving the outdoors


“Before the journey we had a lot of phone calls from some of our friends saying that we should not hike in that inhospitable area as it was going to take its toll on us,” says Cobus.


The first 20 km of rocky terrain was the toughest for him. For Eunice, the hardest part was sleeping outside, using the sleeping bags they had made from a space blanket and parachute material.


Cobus explains that they had to make their own sleeping bags because of the limited space in their briefcases. “We could only pack essentials such as food and cooking equipment.”


Hiking for awareness


They wore office attire throughout the three-day-long hike to make a striking impression.


“If you want people to take notice of any good cause, you are more likely to get their attention when you are dressed in formal clothing,” says Eunice. “Also, office wear has symbolic value. It shows that if a girl child continues schooling, she could get a job and dress the way we were dressed.”


Although the total amount raised has not yet been confirmed, thousands of Rands were donated to the cause because of Cobus’ and Eunice’s hike.


The journey is not over for Cobus and Eunice yet. They are looking forward to helping another worthy cause next year.