About Yaya Girls

Yaya Girls Mission:

The Yaya Girls Program works to create a new class of Ethiopian female role models that will promote gender equality throughout Ethiopia through a semester program focused on running and education. The ultimate goal is to help adolescent girls facing serious life challenges to become self-sufficient, empowered women who can bring positive changes to both themselves and the communities in which they live in.  A new generation of young Yaya female leaders, empowered and encouraged to fight for gender equality, will help redefine the deep-seated societal norms that unfairly burden girls and women throughout Ethiopia. It is our hope that every girl that graduates from the Yaya Program will positively affect twenty-five other women!

The Five Pillar Approach:

The Yaya Girls Program utilizes a holistic, five pillar approach that addresses many of the root causes, which trap Ethiopian girls and young women in a long-standing, inter-generational cycle of poverty. The Five Pillars Include:

  1. Olympic caliber athletic training
  2. Individualized job training coupled with a three-month placement initiative
  3. English language tutoring
  4. Interactive health and nutrition education
  5. Leadership and women’s empowerment curriculum with a strong focus on community outreach.

Why Women?

As women become more empowered, both socially and economically, they often have a greater say in household and community matters. In Ethiopia, significant gender gaps have been observed in literacy rates, educational attainment, work status, salary rates, occupation, access to media, age at first marriage, and preference for the number of children desired. Gender roles, however, are slowly beginning to change in Ethiopian society, and we believe that it is more important than ever to continue investing in girls and programs that can help to expand their life choices.

Why Running?

Running in Ethiopia is more than just a way to stay in shape; it a part of their culture. It is a source of national pride and inspiration and, through numerous running clubs across the country, it is already supported by an organized and effective infrastructure. Healthy competitions can provide a sense of empowerment and strength and discipline to face difficult obstacles prevalent throughout the country. A running team creates a safe space, in which runners can build confidence, practice teamwork, assert their independence, and find friendship and mentors. The Yaya Girls reflects and works within this uniquely energized context to provide motivated female athletes with the tools that will make them both better runners and stronger individuals in their own communities.