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Pentathlete Calls for Equality from Highest Peak in the Americas

United Nations, January 27, 2000

Press Release
For Immediate Release

United Nations, January 27, 2000 – Victoria Manno, a 35-year-old television actress and journalist from Argentina, has completed her solo expedition to scale Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas. Her mission was to climb the 6,959 meter peak and use the dawn of the new millenium to make an appeal for peace and equality. On January 1st, 2000, she broadcast a message of peace to the world’s women and children over the internet and unfurled a banner from the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Manno had hoped to deliver her message from the summit, but was stopped 859 meters from the top by unusually white winds and temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius.

“The mountain allows you to climb it, but never to conquer it,” says Manno, who has been back in her home in Buenos Aires since January 6.  “It was difficult not to go on, but I feel that my mission has only just begun. If one person listened to my message, was touched, and will act on it, then my ascent had meaning.” Manno explains that the moment she ended her 18-day expedition, she also resolved to climb other legendary peaks, including Mt. Everest and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

“We offer our warmest congratulations to a woman who has inspired us all. She has shown great courage in her willingness to risk even her own life in reaching out to the world to affirm women’s human rights,” says Noeleen Heyzer, UNIFEM’s Executive Director. “Victoria Manno and her journey show that we are now closer than ever before to the day when gender equality touches the lives of all women everywhere.”

The weather on Mt. Aconcagua, which towers over the Andean chain, has been particularly bad this year. A string of fatalities among climbers occurred in the first week of January alone. Manno encountered 100 kilometer per hour winds as she struggled with a 17kg pack of equipment. Just hours from the top, the risk of severe frostbite became so high that Manno ran the risk of sustaining permanent damage to her hands and feet.

In the course of her expedition, Manno broadcast messages on Radio Libertad and Radio Feeling in Argentina four times a day. She also filmed 18 minutes of the climb, and took photographs to document her journey. On New Year’s Day, using a satellite phone from the 6,100 meter spot known as Piedras Blancas (White Stones), she sent the following message through her website: www.victoriamanno.com.

“At this precise moment, in this solitary place, I can feel the silence, cold and wind mixed with the peace and purity of this place. I can feel that there is still a bit of pure hope in this planet.From one of the highest mountains in the world, on this date and in representation of all the world’s women and children, I give voice to all those who suffer daily and in silence the violation of their rights.I ask for gender equality without any form of discrimination, whether by race, ethnicity, age, religion, language, gender, disability, social condition, political opinion or any other condition….At great heights, the end is the beginning.”

Manno, who comes from the small village of San Rafael in the Argentine province of Mendoza, is a pentathlete who says she first wanted to climb Mt. Aconcagua when she was 16, but was not allowed because she was a minor. She prepared for the ascent for over a year, and climbed the mountain’s northern face, which is higher than other sides but considered more accessible.

UNIFEM is the United Nations agency dedicated to funding women’s development programmes and strategies in more than 100 developing countries worldwide, including over 30 nations in Latin America. Major initiatives include strengthening women’s economic rights; increasing women’s participation in governance and leadership; and promoting women’s human rights, particularly through eliminating all forms of violence against women.

For further information, contact Micol Zarb
E-mail: micol.zarb@undp.org