|BEKOJI ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP|GGRF laucnhed the Bekoji Athletic Scholarship Project in the Fall of 2015 in Ethiopia's running mecca, Bekoji. Some of Ethiopia's most successful professional runners have come from Bekoji, training under the direction of Coach Senteyhu. GGRF is excited to contribute to this incredible legacy of athleticism by providing girls an opportunity to pursue greatness in athletics, academics and life.
The objectives of this program are to create a running team of 40 girls in 5th, 6th and 7th grade, implement the GGRF/CCL life skills program and provide scholarships for the girls to continue their education.
- The creation of a safe space like this running team reduces girls’ sense of isolation and increases their self-esteem and capacity to assert their right to choose when to marry.
- GGRF’s implementation of the life skills program co-developed by the Center for Creative Leadership, USAID and GGRF delivers crucial information to the girls through experiential learning modules on community service, leadership, creative expression, healthy relationships, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and financial literacy.
- Education scholarships eliminate any financial restraints the girl and her family may face in keeping her enrolled in secondary school.
The team of 40 girls will meet three times a week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday) after school and in the morning on Saturday. During the school week, girls will attend class, attend the hour to hour and a half long practice after school and receive a snack. On Saturday, the girls will meet for two hours in the morning. One hour will be spent doing athletic training and the second hour will be spent eating a meal as a team and conducting the lifeskills workshop for the week. Program participants will complete the GGRF/CCL life-skills program after one school year and continue to be scholarship recipients for the remaining two years. Mentorship and leadership opportunities will be made available to participants who have completed the lifeskills program and are interested in further developing their skills.
The provision of safe spaces through running and secondary school scholarships work together to eliminate the threat of early marriage, the concern for the safety of the girl while attending school and the financial challenge in keeping her in higher levels of education. The participation of girls in safe spaces and running has proven to have a positive impact on their self-esteem, access to health resources, social inclusion, and identification of female role models. Combined with the delivery of the GGRF/CCL life skills program, the girls will graduate from the program after successfully navigating the challenges posed to them during their most vulnerable period of life and having developed the skills needed to secure a healthy and prosperous future for themselves.
Meet the people that make this program possible:
Learn more about Coach Sentayehu and what makes Bekoji special in this short clip put together by the filmmakers of the Town of Runners.
Coach Sentayehu Eshetu has served a coach and community leader in Bekoji for decades. He has coached some of Ethiopia's greatest runners including the current double Olympic gold winners Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, in addition to Mestawot Tadesse, Tirunesh's sisters Ejigayehu and Genzebe Dibaba, Tariku Bekele, Mestawet Tufa and East African cross country champion, Dereje Regassa. Coach Senteyhu is excited to oversee the Bekoji Athletic Scholarships Program and ensure the girls are recieving quality athletic training.
Sentayehu started to run daily structured training sessions for the town's youth. These are now attended by up to 200 young athletes, all hoping to follow in Derartu's footsteps.
Sentayehu has also trained the current double Olympic gold winners Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, as well as Mestawot Tadesse, Tirunesh's sisters Ejigayehu and Genzebe Dibaba, Tariku Bekele, Mestawet Tufa and East African cross country champion, Dereje Regassa.
Coach Fatia is the first ever female coach in Bekoji. She began her career in athletics by training to become a professional marathon runner. She decided to pursue coaching because she wanted to assist other female athletes in reaching their goals in running. She has worked with Coach Sentayehu over the past year, learning how to be an effective coach through his mentorship. Each morning she wakes up at 5am to conduct her own marathon training and then works with the 250 young athletes that come to train with Coach Sentayehu. As a young runner herself, she already knows many of the girls who come to train and is able to identify with their struggles and successes.
PROGRAM OFFICER, BIRUK FICADU
Biruk first started working with Coach Sentayehu several years ago as a young athlete. He later moved into the role of Team Manager, coordinating events and affairs for the Bekoji Athletics Team. Biruk was also featured as the narrator in the film, The Town of Runners, a film about the running legacy in Bekoji. Biruk has been enormously helpful in establishing the Bekoji Athletics Scholarship Program and serves as a key liason between the Athletics Office, athletes and schools we work with.
Photos by Marie Claire Andrea