At the end of last month, Feministing featured an article about some of the breakthroughs happening with female athletes in Somalia. Typically, women haven’t been able to participate in sports, but a male coach is training ten women for the 400-meter run. The Somali Athletics Federation will select one runner from the ten trainees to compete in this year’s Summer Olympics. SOS Children’s Villages, a UK-based charity for orphans and abandoned children worldwide, explains some of the progress being made:
Najma, the youngest of the ten hopefuls training for the event, is only 10 years old. Najma knows she is very lucky to be training among the female athletes. The ten-year old told [news agency] IRIN “society doesn’t understand about sport for girls”. For Najma, the chance to train and race around the 400m track in the war-damaged Konis Stadium brings great joy, especially as the stadium was closed for a long time during the fighting. Najma runs alongside 15-year old Leila, who has been training for three years. With greater freedom in the capital, Leila explains that girls are now able to take part in sports such as basketball, handball and athletics.
From a country with a stated goal of increasing female membership in Parliament to 30% (something the U.S. totally fails at, by the way, as women currently hold 15.8% of the 535 seats in Congress), this is a great way to increase the visibility of women in Somali society. Somalia struggles with retaining its educated women in the country, and the same has been true of its female athletes. Creating more programs that encourage them to stay and having an active athletic community is helping this developing country continue towards creating a public society for everyone.