Komera Run: “Teach Her She Can Run the World!”
We arrived in Rwinkwavu just before 9am. The dusty moto ride from the bus station to the countryside brought us to an open field where young women in white t-shirts were already gathering. Feelings of excitement permeated the still cool air as the young women began to sing and dance in circles. We soon found ourselves a welcome part of the circle.
Singing and dancing with these incredible young women was the perfect way to begin our experience at the 8th annual Komera Global Run, an event that emphasizes the importance of sport for self-esteem, physical health, and empowerment of young women. Former primary school teacher and former professional runner, Margaret Butler, founded Komera in 2008 with a mission to help develop self-confident young women through education, community, and sport. In Rwanda, komera means, “be strong, have courage.”
Today Komera supports 70 scholars in 14 boarding schools in and around Rwinkwavu. Resonate conducts Storytelling for Leadership workshops with Komera Scholars to provide them with the tools they need to speak confidently about themselves and develop their leadership potential. Komera and Resonate share the core values of equality, community, and human potential, creating a natural partnership. Together, we believe that these young women have the potential to lead change in their lives and communities.
One of the Komera Scholars who immediately made an impression on me was Alice. We met Alice when she invited us to join in the circles of singing and dancing. Charismatic and self-assured, Alice is a confident, mature leader who possesses a unique capacity to motivate those around her. She is a tall and graceful young woman with a genuine smile and an authentic spirit who has a gift for reaching out to others and creating an inclusive community. Equipped with education and the ability to confidently express her personal story, Alice is an inspirational leader among the Komera Scholars.
Before lining up for the run, Margaret spoke to the participants and supporters from the local community and those who traveled to attend the event. “We are part of a movement” she said, “but it is not just about moving our bodies, it is about moving our hearts to empower these young women to become the leaders of tomorrow.” Among the most important supporters in the community are the parents of the scholars, who are clearly an essential part of this movement. Some of the mothers of the Komera Scholars shared a customary dance as an expression of their gratitude. Dressed in traditional umushanana made from extraordinary fabrics in many different colors and patterns, the women communicated their pride in their daughters. Providing access to education and building the self-confidence of these young women makes a significant impact not only on them, but also on the people in their lives.
Margaret announced that it was time to take our places on the starting line. The cool air turned warmer as the sun rose above and the hazy sky transformed into a brilliant blue. On your marks, get set, GO!” Quickly a sea of white t-shirts began to flow together over the grassy field, down the road, and around the round about. The young women were giving all their effort as onlookers began to cheer, “Komera!” Among the young women running next to me was Divine, one of the Komera Scholars participating for the first time. Providing support and encouragement, she began to lead songs with some of her classmates who were running with us. As we approached the turn back to the field toward the field, Divine took my hand and we ran together across the finish line.
In that moment I felt as though the whole world was running with us across the field. I have always believed in the power of women, but holding Divine’s hand, both of us smiling as we ran together, I felt a sense of connection and community that I have never felt before. Each of us has the potential to be leaders, and when women like Alice and Divine are equipped with education and confidence, they can leverage it to be agents of change in their own lives and in their communities.
We can all be a part of this movement. Wherever we are, we are all welcome parts of the circle. All we have to do is move our hearts and share our belief in the power of women and girls everywhere. Komera!