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Looking into the lives of Ethiopian girls in ‘Bekoji 100’ documentary

The short film follows a 100-mile relay across Ethiopia and shows how running can change the lives of teenage girls for the better

Genzebe Dibaba Photo by: Augustas Didžgalvis

Running presents many people with the opportunity to improve their lives, and in a new short film titled Bekoji 100, that is put on display with a team of Ethiopian girls. The small Ethiopian town of Bekoji is described as a “running mecca that has produced 18 Olympic medals,” and the documentary follows a local all-girls training group as they run a 100-mile relay. The relay is the reason for the documentary (hence the film’s title), but it is hardly the focus. Instead, viewers are shown how running can help these young girls grow, not only into successful runners, but into independent and strong women. 

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THE BEKOJI 100 FILM PREMIERE // In January 2019, GGRF organized The Bekoji 100: Ethiopia's first ultra relay for and by girls. 48 runners, 100 miles, one day. A historic relay for women's empowerment and peace. . Today we’re proud to launch the Bekoji 100 film! The film is premiering at the No Man’s Land Flagship Film Festival over March 5-8 and will continue to screen at festivals and events around the country over the next several months. Thank you to everyone who made the Bekoji 100 relay and film possible! . The Bekoji 100 short film explores the stories of Desta and Zabu, two adolescent female runners from Bekoji, Ethiopia who are supported by GGRF. As they embark on completing the first-ever 100 mile, ultra relay race across Ethiopia alongside international runners and their GGRF teammates, they share their athletic ambitions and the trials they face as young women. . Join GGRF for The Bekoji 100 film premiere and celebrations at the @nomanslandfilmfestival in Denver, Colorado from ‪March 5-8th: . ‪+ Friday, March 6th, 7:30PM: Bekoji 100 Film Premiere‬ ‪+ Saturday, March 7th, 9:45AM-11:30AM: Run, panel discussion, and celebration of International Women's Day with GGRF and @allegrocoffee‬ ‪+ Saturday, March 7th, 3:10 – 3:40PM: Presentation and Q&A with @runningonom and @kdn_ ‬ . ‪ Get more information on the GGRF events happening over the International Women's Day weekend and learn about upcoming screenings in cities near you on the GGRF Bekoji 100 Film page. Link in bio.‬

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A running mecca

Bekoji has a small population, but it has produced some of Ethiopia’s greatest runners, like two-time Olympic gold medallist Derartu Tulu and sisters Tirunesh and Genzebe Dibaba. Tirunesh has won six Olympic medals (three gold and three bronze) and six world championships medals (five gold and one silver), and she is the 5,000m world record-holder with a time of 14:11.15. Genzebe has two world championship medals from 2015 (gold in the 1,500m and bronze in the 5,000m) and an Olympic medal from 2016 when she won silver in the 1,500m. Kenenisa Bekele was also born near Bekoji, although he isn’t mentioned in the film. 

RELATED: Girls Gotta Run Ultra Relay: the race in support of women’s running in Ethiopia

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Girls Gotta Run 

The film was produced by the Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF), an organization which “envisions a world in which every girl is able to design a future of her choosing” and invests “in girls who use running and education to empower themselves and their communities in Ethiopia.” The GGRF team is made up of girls who want to go far in running (they idolize the likes of Tulu and the Dibaba sisters), but they also want to build lives outside of the sport. 

Desta Diriba is one of the GGRF team members who was interviewed for the film. She explains that she was filled with pride watching the Dibabas winning their medals, and she hopes to follow in their footsteps. She also hopes to go to university and medical school to help people in her country—specifically women during childbirth. 

RELATED: Tirunesh Dibaba expecting second child, out for London Marathon

The Bekoji 100 

The relay featured 48 runners, some of whom were from Bekoji and others who were international participants. They ran the 161K from Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains back to Bekoji. The run took place in January 2019, and thanks to the relay and film, $30,000 has been raised, all of which will be invested into the GGRF community in Bekoji. To find out more about GGRF and to watch the documentary, click here