An organization called Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) is doing its best to encourage all Kilimanjaro operators to adhere to basic rules regarding equal pay as well as safety for porters. A porter does not need to be educated, employment is scarce and life is hard. It's the perfect recipe for abuse and exploitation to take place. Porters die from exhaustion, and hypothermia every year, because they're overloaded and there's no way they can carry enough food, clothing or shelter for themselves. It is partly your responsibility as a climber to find out from KPAP if the company you are trekking with adheres to their basic guidelines. Please watch this video to get an idea of the stakes, it ends with this quote:
Don't agree to get a cheap trip unless you are prepared to watch a young lad in tears trying to drag your 40 kilos of baggage up the mountain. You're putting him in danger as well as making him suffer.
Image of porters packing up before going up Mount Kilimanjaro - © Erika Bloom