Community & Current Events

Grassroots group: Girls Gotta Run

Photography by Soeren Malmose Image by: Photography by Soeren Malmose Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Grassroots group: Girls Gotta Run

Challenge: In Ethiopia, half of all women are married by the age of 18 (and one in five by 15). Meanwhile, only 16 percent attend high school. Young women who are promising runners can stay in school and become, if not professional athletes, nurses or teachers. But the cost of running shoes, training clothes and extra calories is prohibitive: One-third of Ethiopians survive on just US$1.25 per day, and girls are routinely pushed into marriage or domestic servitude.

The response:
Girls Gotta Run (GGR) was founded in 2006 by Patricia Ortman, a former women's studies prof who read a newspaper article about the plight—and potential—of Ethiopia's young women runners. "My thoughts were: 'Those girls are trying so hard,' and 'There must be a way,'" says the Washington, D.C.-based Ortman. By December 2007, GGR was able to sponsor two dozen girls. Last year, GGR sponsored 60 young women, supplying running shoes, clothing, training and other support.

Globe and Mail
running columnist Margaret Webb, who visited a GGR-funded project in Ethiopia and raised more than $1,100 for the organization via her 2012 Boston Marathon run, says that its impact is profound. "GGR isn't about 'Let's turn all these women into professional runners,'" says Webb. "They know not all of them can be. But through running, the girls learn discipline and goal setting, and they get the mentorship they so rarely receive. All that is very powerful."

Help the girls of Ethiopia chase their dreams by visiting GirlsGottaRun.org.

To learn more about International Women's Day, check out our State of the Sisterhood project
                                               
This story was originally titled "Grassroots Group" in the March 2014 issue.
           
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Grassroots group: Girls Gotta Run

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