Athletics and coffee are deeply embedded in Ethiopian culture. Ethiopian athletes have dominated both middle and long-distance events around the globe, claiming numerous medals and world records at the Olympics and World Championships since the 1960s. Many of their distance runners – such as Tirunesh Dibaba, Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele – have become household names, not just in Ethiopia but around the world. They also provide inspiration to young, aspiring athletes, who see running as a means to a better education and a better life.
Ethiopia is a mecca for anyone interested in coffee, being both its birthplace and spiritual home. Coffee grows indigenously throughout the country and the quality of Ethiopia’s production is some of the best in the coffee growing world. As such, coffee forms part of the national identity, and is of huge importance to the country’s economy: around 60% of foreign income comes from the industry and an estimated 15 million people throughout the country have livelihoods that rely on coffee production.
Falcon has been working in Ethiopia for many years, and built deep, longstanding relationships in the country. It was through one of these relationships that in 2015, we came across the Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF). GGRF is a non-profit organisation that empowers girls in Ethiopia through running and education. The UN Population Fund identified that early marriage is the most prevalent factor in cutting short the education of girls across all regions in Ethiopia. Although the government has outlawed marriage before the age of 18, 24% of girls are still taken out of school and married by the age of just 15. While most girls supported by GGRF do not become professional athletes, the training given allows the girls to stay in school and avoid early marriage and pregnancy. In turn, this can enhance their personal economic opportunities and gives them a safe space to develop their sense of community, leaving them better equipped to face the challenges posed to them during their most vulnerable years.
GGRF provides ‘Athletic Scholarships’ for girls entering secondary school, these include the following:
• Full scholarship to attend secondary school including healthcare for the student and her mother, daily meals, uniform, books, writing materials, tutoring, access to school clubs and library, showers and space to wash clothes on a weekend.
• Completion of the GGRF/CCL Life Skills Curriculum, developed to create safe spaces for girls and provide experiential learning modules on family planning, financial literacy, HIV/AIDS awareness, nutrition, healthy relationships, leadership and creative expression.
• Running clothes, shoes and healthy snacks for the year.
• Entrance and transportation to Ethiopian races throughout the year.
• Oversight of a coach and academic mentor.
So far since 2006, 190 girls have been supported by GGRF and many ex-students are challenging some of the social and cultural norms in Ethiopia by continuing their education at university. Since 2015, through the purchase of one of our Ethiopian specialty coffees, we have been supporting the foundation. We have also spread awareness of the foundation to roaster clients in the US and Europe, who continue to share the GGRF story on their coffee bags and marketing materials, and ensure that more and more people become aware of the cause. In addition, members of the Falcon team have taken part in the yearly charity run established by GGRF, which encourages people from around the world to run 5k in honour of the International Day of the Girl.
In 2015/16, Falcon directly contributed $10,000 to GGRF from coffee purchases and a charitable donation. In the 16/17 we donated another $5k from coffee purchases alone. In 2018, we have changed the structure our donation, in line with GGRF’s own most pressing requirements. We will therefore be sponsoring 10 young women and their mothers in the program for the year, donating towards secondary school education, healthcare, daily meals, uniform and athletic equipment, books, tutoring and access to school clubs, the library and places to shower and wash clothes. We are so pleased to be able to continue our support of this fantastic organisation, going forward. If you would like any further information about the GGRF, or would like to contribute to this amazing cause, please visit their website here.