Eritrea’s bold leap: Empowering female athletes towards global athletic domination


Eritrea is embarking on a transformative journey with a singular mission: to empower female athletes and close the gender disparity gap in sports.

This drive aims not only to ensure more women remain in athletics but also to build on the country’s promising track record in international competitions.

The narrative of female athleticism in Eritrea is being rewritten, with the country having already produced seven female Olympians, including a notable participation of four athletes at the Tokyo Games and impressive performances at the World Athletics Championships.

As Eritrea looks to the future, a new generation of female athletes is emerging, determined to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and make their mark on the global stage.

In a groundbreaking initiative, the Eritrea National Olympic Committee has taken a decisive step by sending six promising female athletes to Kenya for advanced altitude training.

This 45-day camp at the esteemed Kipchoge Keino High Performance Training Centre is a part of a broader effort under the Committee’s female empowerment programme, designed to enhance the practical and technical development of women in various sports.

The ultimate goal for these athletes – Almaz Kiflom, Diana Shishay, Maria Ali Kote, Ariam Hadish, Snit Samson, and Fiori Ghebrehiwot – is to qualify for prestigious events such as the African Games, the Olympic Games in Paris, and the World Athletics U20 Championships in Lima 2024.

Shewit Tesfagebriel, Eritrea’s sole female athletics coach and a former athlete, underscores the challenges female athletes face, from cultural and financial barriers to societal expectations.

Despite these hurdles, Tesfagebriel is a beacon of hope and a driving force behind this initiative.

She believes in leveraging her position to foster gender equality in sports, mirroring the national government’s stance, and advocating for equal representation and opportunities for female athletes.

During their stay in Kenya, the athletes underwent a rigorous training regimen, which included participating in competitions that provided them with invaluable exposure and experience.

These opportunities are critical, as Eritrea seeks to overcome a lack of local competitions and international experience, which has historically hindered its athletes’ performances on the global stage.

The training camp, enriched by interactions with Kenyan athletics legend Kipchoge Keino, served as a powerful source of inspiration and learning for the Eritrean contingent.

The stories of these athletes are as diverse as they are inspiring. Almaz Kiflom, an 800m and 1500m runner, looks up to Olympic champion Almaz Ayana, aspiring to achieve similar greatness.

Diana Shishay, after completing her military training, sees this project as a stepping stone to becoming a world champion.

Meanwhile, Maria Ali Kote, the national U20 record holder in the 5km, dreams of Olympic glory and aims to emulate the success of her role models, including Nazret Weldu and Rahel Daniel.

Underpinning this initiative is a profound commitment to mentorship and personal development. Tesfagebriel, acting as a coach, mentor, and mother figure, strives to instill in these young athletes the determination, discipline, and ambition required to succeed.

Her story, from a national champion who faced her own set of challenges to a pioneering coach, is a testament to the transformative power of athletics and the importance of support and encouragement in nurturing talent.

This mission to empower female athletes in Eritrea is more than just about sports; it’s a quest for gender equality, an effort to change societal norms, and an investment in the future of young women.

The experiences, lessons, and successes of these athletes serve as a beacon of hope and a model for future generations.

As they continue their journey, their aspirations go beyond personal achievements; they aim to inspire, motivate, and pave the way for more women to pursue their dreams in athletics and beyond.

The significance of this mission cannot be overstated. It represents a critical step forward in the pursuit of gender equality in sports and reflects a broader global movement towards inclusivity and diversity in athletics.

As these young women return home, they carry with them not just the physical strength and technical skills honed in Kenya, but also the courage, resilience, and determination to inspire change and make history.

Eritrea’s mission to empower female athletes is a beacon of progress, challenging stereotypes and inspiring a new generation of women to dream big, aim high, and achieve greatness in the world of sports.

Source: World Athletics

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