Bashedu, Burtucan, Deretu, Desta, Fatuma, Lome, Meskeram, Nuria, Tarikwa and Zebaney, all in their early to mid teens, these girls have a single minded devotion to running. They aspire to one day represent Ethiopia internationally. The medals tally in world athletic championships so far is nearly equal amongst the men and women of Bekoji.
Since 2006, Girls Gotta Run Foundation, has worked with girls in Bekoji who use running and education to empower themselves and their communities.
Part of their life skills program, is to promote creative expression as an essential activity for the girls to be able to navigate adolescence. By creating a safe space for girls, this organisation has committed itself to ensure a well rounded upbringing of the girls in the town.
The workshop, led by Lensational Ambassador, Sandeep Dhopate, was aimed at letting the girls get behind a camera and look at the world around them critically. Holding a camera is like holding a pen. When one puts these tools to use, they start training the mind to focus on specific elements. We learn to read much before we learn to write and that is the idea behind photography too. We learn to observe much before we are able to create visuals to express our thoughts and ideas.
Introducing the girls to photography was an attempt to encourage them to document life around them as it happens. There have been many articles written and films made about Bekoji and the amazing legacy of its long distance runners. But people of Bekoji remain the subject of the story, never the story tellers. Lensational wants the girls to be the storytellers of their lives and that of the community they cohabit.