Who Runs The World? GIRLS: How One Runner Changed The Lives Of Girls And Women In Tanzania.

Who Runs The World? GIRLS:

How This Corporate Athlete Changed The Lives Of Girls And Women In Tanzania.

While traveling around Africa on vacation, I needed to go for long training runs as I was slated to run an IRONMAN Triathlon the day after returning to the United States. I strategically plan my races at the beginning of the year so this was very important to me.

When I asked the managers at the camp in Tanzania for a good route for me to run, they told me that I would be required to have security guard accompaniment in case I encountered any dangerous animals. They also told me that I was the first woman ever to request an outdoor run, which was crazy to hear!

I went for runs two days in a row, and a group of locals joined me on the second day. Several of them commented on how they rarely have the opportunity to enjoy exercise given the risky circumstances of their environment.

This experience and their perspective made me mindful about the degree to which we often take self-care and access to safety for granted, and it inspired me to want to become more involved with global wellness initiatives.

As word spread about my runs in Tanzania, I was asked to participate in the first ever Serengeti Girls Run, a 55-mile run over the course of three days. I was also asked to speak to a group of 400 local high school students about confidence, self-esteem, and empowerment. I was honored and really excited to be able to share some experiences with them and hopefully make an impact.  I am so passionate about STEM and mentoring our future leaders that this was right up my alley.

In October 2018, I participated in the first-ever women-only run across the Serengeti wilderness as part of a fundraiser for female empowerment programs hosted by the Singita Grumeti Fund and BRAVE:

The run aims to raise funds and awareness about the challenges facing girls and women living in nearby communities and seeking sustainable solutions.

The main focus is on opportunities for women to become leaders in conservation in their communities and countries.

Singita Grumeti Fund programmes include a secondary school, vocational studies and university scholarships, life skills, enterprise development training, environmental education, and internships.

On the first day, I spoke to the crowd and then joined the other participating women for a solidarity ‘fun run’ with girls from the local community. This was an incredible experience for me. During the ‘fun run’ a few of the girls ran along my side, holding my hand, and we sang Beyonce for the 4 miles. I will never forget how happy and free those girls felt as they ran down the streets of Tanzania.

Later, I showed the girls an iPhone, and many of them commented on how they had never seen the technology and hadn’t seen pictures of themselves before. The girls were grabbing the phone to see their pictures and more importantly asking questions-very curious and intriguing minds.  The 400 school girls that I met along the journey wanted to know everything from self-esteem, to what it takes to work hard, to what to study, and to what I like to eat. They asked loads of questions.

For the Serengeti Run itself, I ran 18 miles each day for three days (for a total of 90 km / 55 miles), accompanied by the Singita Grumeti Fund anti-poaching, Special Operations Center armed guard scouts and nine other women. While running, we were able to witness the wildlife in the plains. It wasn’t about just doing a race- it was the people coming together from around the world and doing this for a cause that helped Africa overall and made a difference in the world. The bonds that I formed with these women are some that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I was inspired, uplifted, and so proud of what we accomplished together. The bonds made friends for life and a moment captured in my life that was so unique that it couldn’t be remade- we made history together through the Serengeti.

I was so inspired by the locals, my fellow participants, and all of the folks that I encountered on this trip.  They are now my friends for life.

Rhonda Vetere

Rhonda has worked across industries as a global executive and change agent at nThrive / Pamplona Capital Management, Estée Lauder Companies, AIG, HP Enterprise Services, Barclays / Lehman, Bank One / JPMorgan Chase, CompuServe, UUNET, MCI, and Worldcom. She has lived and worked internationally – in New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Mumbai, and across India – and has managed teams of up to 20,000 people. Vetere is also the co-author of an HP special edition book, “Enterprise Service Management for Dummies”

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