Long-distance running has become a part of Ethiopian culture. Great runners, both men and women, are heroes in Ethiopia. Athletes have the potential to be effective role models for youth and this project would put them at the forefront of literacy efforts.
With training and support from Ethiopia Reads staff in Addis Ababa, women athletes will lead reading circles in primary school libraries and classrooms. They will assist the school librarians. They will lead in the formation of book clubs
By placing women athletes in professional positions, we hope they see themselves in a different light. We hope the experience provides them with motivation in their own education. Many are still finishing primary or secondary grade levels in night school. If they are able to read for children in early grades, it will provide them with confidence and hope. They gain new work experience and, at the same time, are mentored by professional women as well.
The women receive generous salaries for part-time work, work that will not interfere with their training schedules. The goal is confidence that they have it in themselves to develop other marketable skills beyond running.
Many are young women who have faced the most difficult situations in their childhood, making them strong female figures who can mentor and share experiences with school girls. They can help girls to tackle gender issues and advise them not to take things for granted.
It should be noted that many athletes are from Oromo-speaking regions, and are bilingual, in the prevailing Amharic language and regional Oromo language. This provides an opportunity to reach across a tense ethnical divide and work in the Oromo-speaking regions that surround Addis Ababa.