In Sodo & Bekoji, New GGRF Athletic Scholarship Keeps Girls in School

Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) has launched a new athletic scholarship project in Ethiopia's running mecca, Bekoji and Sodo towns with an aim to create running teams for teenage girls. (Photograph: GGRF)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, November 23rd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — For the past nine years the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) has been supporting running teams in Ethiopia, which allows young and vulnerable rural girls to stay in school while pursuing their dreams of becoming athletes.

GGRF recently rolled out a new program model in Sodo and Bekoji, Ethiopia based on a three-year athletic scholarship that includes “school tuition, participation on a running team, leadership & mentoring skills, entrepreneurship and extracurricular programming around building life skills,” explains the founder Dr. Patricia E. Ortman, a former Women’s Studies professor and artist, who established GGRF in 2006 after reading a 2005 Washington Post article that discussed the difficulties faced by poor young women in Ethiopia.

“Our pilot program is doing fantastically well in Sodo and we have added a second class there as we scale up to a total of 60 students in the program,” Ortman tells Tadias. “And we are in the process of establishing the program in Bekoji this fall with a first year class of 20.”

The scholarship targets girls between the ages of 10 and 14 before their entrance into high school. “The reason is because that’s the age when they get pulled out of school by parents,” Ortman says.

GGRF started implementing the 3-year scholarship project in Bekoji in Fall 2015. (Photograph: GGRF)

GGRF’s partners include Abba Pascal School for Girls in Sodo & Center for Creative Leadership. (Photo: GGRF)

In addition to school tuition coverage and leadership skills the scholarship covers fees for healthcare, daily meals, uniform, books, tutoring, access to school clubs and library, showers and space to wash clothes on the weekend, as well as running clothes, shoes, transportation to races, coaches and running mentors.

“The Girls Gotta Run Scholarship Program represents a major breakthrough for our organization because it is the first time that we are implementing a program that was designed by us,” says the non-profit’s Chairperson, Ashley Griffith Kollme. “GGRF spent its first several years supporting other education and running-related organizations and learning about what works and what doesn’t work.”

Kollme adds: “We spent a lot of time gathering information on the needs of vulnerable adolescent girls in Ethiopia and designed a culturally competent running and education program that we feel very confident about. I believe the scholarship program is making a real difference in the lives and futures of our girls and their families. In the short time that we have been running the program, I have found that donors are more engaged because they feel a connection to their sponsored athletes, which is facilitated by letters and reports from Kayla Nolan, our Executive Director.” Nolan, who oversees the project in Ethiopia, interviews the students and parents before making the final selection into the program.

Ortman notes that “$600 a year or $50 a month will pay all expenses for one student.”

“I can’t believe we’ve been going at this for almost 10 years now,” Ortman says. “I think we’ve really found our formula for success.” She adds: “I am happy we are making a big impact on the lives of the girls now in the program and I am looking forward to replicating the program all over the country.”

Watch: video about the GGRF Athletic Scholarship Program in Sodo

Rewriting motherhood from CCL Ethiopia on Vimeo.

You can learn more and support Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) at


Why Girls Gotta Run: Tadias Interview with Dr. Patricia E. Ortman

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