With her victory in the women’s 10,000-meter race at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Derartu Tulu made history as the first black African and Ethiopian woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
Derartu is an inspiration not only as an Olympian who won her first gold medal but also as a woman who is able to participate in athletics.
Many other Ethiopian and African women followed in Derartu’s footsteps and competed in international events, allowing them to make their own mark on history.
Fatuma Roba, Gete Wami, Elfnesh Alemu, Meserat Defar, Tirunesh Dibaba, Genzebe Dibaba, Almaz Ayana, and the finest athlete of the era, Letesenbet Gidey, were all able to represent their country on an international stage following a trailblazer.
Apart from their athletic prowess, several former athletes have gone on to become leaders or prosperous businesspeople.
Six of the 11 members of the executive committee of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) are women, including its president, Derartu. Women athletes excel not only in competition but also in positions of leadership. 30 percent of EAF employees are female.
On the other hand, Ethiopian women’s performances at international events like the Olympics, the World Championships, and other major events have gotten better in recent years.
Since its Olympic debut in 1984, Ethiopia has won 23 gold medals overall, with nine of those being won by women. To add to that, 18 of the 34 gold medals won by Ethiopian competitors in the World Athletics Championship were earned by female athletes.
Many people believe it’s inspiring that women succeed in sports and other competitive arenas against cultural and societal pressures.
Head of the sports and entertainment section at Addis Zemen newspaper, Bogale Abebe, reckons it’s a huge win for women athletes to succeed in tough surroundings and provides evidence that they may achieve even more success if given more favorable conditions.
“To see the journey of success of Ethiopian women athletes, it is enough to look at their victories in World Championships and Olympic events,” Bogale told The Reporter. He suggests the EAF should give women a chance to strengthen their participation and representation in office.
The international governing body for athletics, World Athletics (WA), made the decision to include women in its Council, including at least one female vice president, on March 7, 2023. In a statement, the governing body pledged that by the August 2023 Council elections, the number of women on the Council would have increased from the current eight to at least 10.
As a result, women will make up 40 percent of the total. The March 7 announcement revealed that each of the 214 member federations across the world will be responsible for establishing its own safeguarding measures by the end of 2023.
Each new pledge is designed to improve gender equity and close the gender gap in athletics in the third year of the #WeGrowAthletics campaign, according to WA’s statement. It aims to build a pipeline to increase female representation to 50 percent across four commissions for the 2023–2027 terms to provide more opportunities for female administrators with aspirations to run for our Council in 2027.
Additionally, the pledge includes urging member federations to send more female coaches to the World Championships in an effort to raise the percentage of female coaches to at least 20 percent by the 2025 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo.
In nations where women are underrepresented at the coaching level, the program also offers a learning program. To ensure that qualified women coaches represent their country at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the WA Gender Leadership Taskforce is reportedly collaborating with the IOC Female Coaching Leadership Program, also known as the Women in Sport High Performance Pathway, or WISH. Eight candidates have been picked for the program.
All international member federations are obligated to implement a safeguarding policy before the year’s end to make the sport a secure environment for all participants.
The WA campaign has made progress in fulfilling all of the goals it set in the last 24 months since it debuted on International Women’s Day 2021 with the goal of making significant accomplishments in avoiding gender bias in athletics.
“Launched on International Women’s Day 2021 with the ambition of making substantial gains in eliminating gender bias in athletics, this campaign has already made notable strides in fulfilling or initiating all of the pledges we have made in the last 24 months,” it said.
Sebastian Coe, the president of the WA, says that in order to achieve true equity in the sport, it is important that female athletes, administrators, and officials are offered the tools and environment they need to be empowered to pursue careers at all levels of athletics.
A year after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, WA has also pledged assistance to Ukrainian women athletes.