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Sport science lecturer conquers mountains (and fear) to help end period poverty
Author: FMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Sue Segar
Published: 21/07/2022

​After a bout of Covid-19, sports science lecturer Dr Shaundré Jacobs was intent to take on the gruelling 13 Peaks Challenge to reboot her fitness, and she decided to add purpose to her run by raising money to end period poverty.

The 13 Peaks Challenge is an epic mountain adventure which involves summiting 13 peaks on Table Mountain and in the Cape Peninsula area, which starts and ends at Signal Hill.

Period poverty which arises from a lack of access to menstrual products, affects many thousands of South African women, including students, and has a huge impact on their dignity, education and work.

Jacobs, who lectures in applied kinesiology, among other things, and who also coordinates the Performance Sport honours programme, is a passionate trail runner and part of the Stellies Shake Out running group.

She contracted Covid-19 at the beginning of the year, and then, a few weeks later, came down with chicken pox.

“I was sick for the whole of January – not only physically but also mentally," she said in an interview.

“I decided that, as soon as I was better, I wanted to get fit again and to do the 13 Peak Challenge. As soon as I was feeling better, I went for all the health checks to get the all-clear and got back into a training routine."

According to Jacobs, the 13 Peaks Challenge “really earns you your 'hard core' badge," in the trail-running community.

“While I was doing my planning, I decided I did not want to do the challenge just for the sake of doing it. Through my personal Instagram account, I had recruited a few fellow trail-runners to do the challenge with me.

“I had read about the Bridge the Gap initiative at Stellenbosch University, and one of the causes is to help end period poverty. I asked my fellow runners what they thought, and they all unanimously voted for us to support the cause of ending period poverty.

“As a woman, I knowing just how much sanitary products costs and how many students do not have access to sanitary towels, it was a major motivation to use the 13 Peaks Challenge to create awareness of the problem and to try and get people to donate to the cause."

Jacobs and her fellow team members started a GivenGain page with this link: 13 Peaks Trail runners is raising money for Stellenbosch University - South Africa | GivenGain

A total of 18 people started the challenge, which was done over three days – 11, 18 and 25 June. In total they ran 111 km with 6667m vert, tagging the 13 peaks in three days in 22 hours and 23 minutes.

Some people did the first day, some did the first and second days, and, in the end, ten people finished – Jacobs and nine others.

“Our target was to raise R15,000 and we collected just over that," she said, adding that the page is still open.

“It was tough, not only physically but also mentally," Jacobs said. “Firstly, I had to face my fear of heights. In some sections of the 13 Peaks Challenge, there are sheer drops. I had to meander up the heights and the worst part was coming down. So I did not only conquer the mountains but also my fear of heights.

On day 1 they did Signal Hill, Lions Head, Maclears Beacon, Grootkop, Judas Peak and Klein Leeukop. “It totalled 34 km!" On day 2 they did Suther Peak, Chapman's Peak, Noordhoek Peak and Muizenberg Peak, totalling 25 km. And on day 3, Constantiaberg Peak, Klaasenkop Peak and Devils Peak and then back to Signal Hill, totalling 40 km, which she said was the toughest day.

Jacobs said she hopes to install vending machines that stock sanitary pads and tampons on the Stellenbosch campus, which young women can access when they need them.

“We need to be aware of the context we find ourselves in. We live in a country where 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line," she said. “If I can, in my own way, I would like to give back to people who are less fortunate, through my running or work.

“My mantra is the quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world".