The Girls Gotta Run Foundation is a grassroots nonprofit that empowers girls
You can help by sending your gently used running bras to:
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Oiselle was connected to The Girls Gotta Run foundation by Gaby Grebski. She has been working with the nonprofit since 2009. Gaby will be hand delivering the bras when she returns to Ethiopia this summer. Read more about her involvement, the foundation and the runners below:
THE GIRLS GOTTA RUN
by Gabby Grebski
Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have to run without a running bra? Not that I am exceptionally endowed but, it’s not something I think about often. Probably because I have access to more than I would ever need. However, seeing Oiselle’s video, New Uses for Old Running Bras, recently on Facebook made me think about it more carefully, not for myself but for a group of girls I have gotten to know half way around the world in Ethiopia.
Since 2009, I have been involved with a small, grassroots nonprofit called The Girls Gotta Run Foundation that empowers girls and women in Ethiopia to overcome poverty through running. These girls have virtually nothing… hardly any clothes appropriate for running and certainly no appropriate running shoes. GGRF helps to supply them with much needed funds to pay for food and coaching in addition to providing equipment (both new and gently-used) which includes running apparel, shoes and… running bras.
In the U.S., with high school running being a much more recreational activity, I was intrigued and inspired by the idea of running being so much more than a means by which someone can stay in shape, earn a little glory or get recruited to college. In Ethiopia, these girls were running as a means for survival. Girls, as young as 12, are being sold by their parents desperate for dowry payments. Even more sobering is that many young girls who are raped at a young age can be forced to marry their assailants as they are no longer considered “marriage material”. Complications from childbirth at such a young age are extremely common and can often lead to death if not properly treated. Additionally, marriage often means the end of a young girl’s education as she must drop out of school to care for her family. GGRF works to help break this devastating cycle of poverty.
Traveling to Ethiopia for the first time in the summer of 2009, I met dozens of young girls both in Addis Ababa and up in the Simien Mountains. They were slight in stature, very shy and didn’t seem particularly strong. Until you tried running with them. These girls were tough and some of the most dedicated runners I’d ever seen. Many can’t afford shoes so they run barefoot or in sandals. Some have to run before or after school in the dark. Several even run in secret as their parents do not approve of this “running thing” they are doing. Regardless of their situation, it is clear they are all making significant sacrifices to pursue their running. Each young girl has dreams of becoming the next Meseret Defar or Tirunish Dibaba and representing their country at the Olympics. But the reality is that most will never get that far or even come close.
However, they also have dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, lawyers, public policy administrators… dreams of something other than marriage and child-rearing. It was clear that running and their success through running was giving them a confidence that would have been hard to achieve otherwise. When they were heckled by boys on the street (and they were), they just scoffed, waved their hand dismissively and kept walking. It was heartwarming to see them stand up for themselves and be proud of who they were, knowing they could outrun any of those boys if they wanted to.
Each summer I returned to visit the girls and every year they embraced me as if I were a long lost relative. In very broken English (my Amharic is pretty much non-existent), they tried to tell me all about their training and racing accomplishments. I received hugs, invitations to visit their homes, and gifts of homemade baskets and racing medals they’d won (hard to accept but not an option to refuse). Unfortunately, over the last three years, some of the girls have been forced to return to their families to work in the fields or care for younger siblings. It saddened me to hear this as it underscored how fragile and precarious their futures really are. But, the girls who stay on remain upbeat and hopeful.
Most importantly, the girls have always remained endearingly thankful for all the running clothes and shoes I bring them, smiling shyly and giggling as they pick out their favorite items, afraid of taking more than one or two things. The one article of clothing we do not seem to collect much of is running bras. These are difficult to come by in Ethiopia and when I asked the girls what else I should bring, they told me almost unanimously, “sports bras!”.
So, I thought I would reach out to the Oiselle family to see if there was anything they could do to help. And, they agreed whole-heartedly. My sincere thanks to Sally, Sarah and the Oiselle team for generously agreeing to pay a role in helping these girls change the course of their lives and reach their dreams, running or otherwise. You can check out the girls at Girls Gotta Run Foundation at www.girlsgottarun.org.