Inspiring Young Girls Through the Power of Running

By Margaret Butler, Executive Director and Founder of the Komera Project

On my daily run I find peace and balance. It's where I make sense of the world, it's my confidence, it's how I explore and it's part of my fabric as a human being. In 2007 I found myself running through the remote villages of Rwanda. After a lifetime of running around the world, I had finally found my ultimate race. I was in my element running through fields, spotting monkeys, racing bikes and being cheered along the way by young kids shouting "Komera, Komera!" "Be strong and courageous" was what they were saying to me, be strong and courageous.

I often had young boys running with me but rarely young girls. They were found at the outskirts watching and I could see that they wanted to join but weren't sure how. I wanted to do something, I wanted those young girls who were too shy, too embarrassed or felt that it was inappropriate to hear people cheering for them "Komera, Komera!", be strong and courageous. With the help of the Partners In Health social workers, we decided that we would host Rwinkwavu's first ever girls' only fun run. In 2008 we had 400 young women come out and participate, being cheered on by young boys and the local community; they were celebrated as chants of "Komera!" could be heard throughout the village.

Five years later and we are still running strong. We have 75 young women on scholarship and programs that focus on social entrepreneurship, leadership development and global connectivity in addition to our annual girls' fun run. We also work with students in North America, inspiring them to be both local and global agents of change. Komera is a global leadership incubator for young women dedicated to building an international network of community leaders. We use running as a tool to inspire, unify and connect people around the world. This year we will host our 5th girls' fun run in Rwanda and we are asking our friends around the world to participate. Running connects us, it motivates us and it inspires us to take action. We hope that you will take this inspiration and join us in your community for The Komera Global Run on June 19th. We are asking our friends around the world to be strong and courageous and run in solidarity with us as we run with the Komera scholars in Rwanda. All we ask is that you sign up here and tell us about your run -- our goal is to get 1000 people running. Will you run with us?