Uganda long Distance Runner Joshua Cheptegei has through Joshua Cheptegei Foundation (JOCDEF) launched an annual female road run.
Dubbed the “Super 10 and 5KM” under the theme “Bridging Gender Disparity Through Sports Between Male and Female Athletes”, the race is part of the affirmative action for women athletes who are few and do not stay for long in the sport in Uganda.
The run launched on October 8th in Kapchorwa started with a 5km and 10km female run. According to Cheptegei, he came up with the idea after realizing that the majority of Ugandan female athletes disappear mysteriously from the sport when they still have the opportunity to be in the world’s top arena.
“Female athletes have got a lot of chances in excelling in Ugandan golden sport, they only need to be guided and given an opportunity to showcase what they can do best,” said Cheptegei. He also said the annual run is also geared towards ending gender-based violence (GBV) related issues affecting female athletes.
“We also want to promote gender equality and equity, fight for women and girl child rights through engaging men/boys, boost gender and capacity building, promote social justice and tranquility and encourage girls to stay at school as well as fighting early child marriages,” he added.
Alfred Tunde, the Sports Officer of Kapchorwa district, says the annual run is a great initiative by Cheptegei and an inspirational platform for female athletes to thrive in the sport. “I appeal to the other athletes who have an opportunity to support the others to do like as Cheptegei,” said Tunde. Benjamin Njia, the vice president of the Uganda Athletics Federation, says the federation has also joined the campaign by giving technical support.
“When Joshua shared this idea with us, we became amazed and encouraged him to go on. We call upon excelling athletes to emulate what Cheptegei has done. If an athlete gives support to other athletes then it’s a great achievement,” he explained.
Olympic Champion, Peruth Chemutai, welcomed the program and asked Cheptegei to continue with the same spirit. According to Chemutai, female athletes have challenges during international competitions, because they don’t have fellow country mates to push on together to the podium.
Chemutai, asks female athletes to embrace discipline in the sport so as to excel. She says indiscipline is a challenge for Ugandan female athletes. “Respect coaches and fellow friends,” Chemutai said. Adding that, “There should be a transition of disciplined quality athletes of both men and women”.
Isaac Kajembe, a national coach, says spotting girl athletes in villages is a challenge, arguing that the run is going to make talent identification easy for them. “Spotting, naturing, and promoting talents of the female athletes is now going to be easy for us given the fact that there is a platform,” Kajembe said.
Teddy Chekwemoi, a female athlete says it’s a great opportunity for them as female athletes to thrive in the global athletics arena. “It’s not easy for someone, to come in and invest in securing the future of one’s career, but Cheptegei has done it for us,” said Chekwemoi. Patricia Chelangat, another female athlete, said the annual race is a sign of togetherness in the sport as Ugandan athletes.
“We really feel that we are one, if a male athlete can have such an idea of supporting females, I feel great,” Chelangat said. Beatrice Chelangat, the Executive Director of Reproductive Education and Community Health (REACH), reveals that the majority of teenage pregnancies and gender-based violence (GBV) issues are prevalent in rural areas.
“In Sebei, cases of are mainly reported from hard-to-reach areas,” said Chelangat. Currently, there are less than 15 Ugandan top female athletes compared to Kenya with more than a hundred female athletes.