Ethiopian girls are changing tradition through skateboarding

Some members of the Ethiopian Girls Skates. Image by on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED).

Every Saturday morning, a group of young girls and women converge on the Addis Skate Park in Ethiopia's capital to delve into the world of skateboarding. They practise vigorously, learning everything from balancing techniques to perfecting their landings, pushing against gendered stereotypes, bullying and sexism in Ethiopia, as they do so.

As chronicled by Vogue magazine, this movement began over three years ago through social media, sparked by Sosina Challa, the pioneer of one of the all-girls skating communities.

Sosina posted a flyer on Instagram and Telegram Messenger, which conveyed a simple message: “Free skateboarding lessons for girls.” Being aware of the skating stereotypes in Ethiopia, where, like in most places worldwide, skateboarding is mainly associated with boys and young men, she became worried that parents may not permit their daughters to participate and no girls or women would show up. But to her surprise, a few dozen women and girls, predominantly aged between 10 and 25, turned up at the skate park for the first lesson.

A few years later, more women and girls joined. Today, the group Challa founded, Ethiopian Girl Skaters (EGS), has over 60 members and has become the first female-only skateboarding group in the country. 

But EGS is not the only all-girls skating group in Ethiopia. There is also Set Skateboarding, established in 2021 by Helina Solomon, an 18-year-old. Solomon's passion for skateboarding came under scrutiny, leading to her being subjected to personal and sexual attacks by some boys who were unable to comprehend how this teenage girl could challenge the “boys only” status quo. In an interview with she said: “It was not easy. The boys at the skate park bullied girl skateboarders. They harassed us when they saw us on boards.”

The first skaters emerged around the 1940s and early 1950s in California, United States, when surfers in California wanted something to do when the waves were flat. Today, this sport has spread across the Atlantic, with Addis Ababa swiftly becoming a center for Africa’s skateboarding scene. As noted by The Reporter Ethiopia, there are more than 10 million skaters around the world, and it has become a five-billion-dollar sporting industry.

This sport is often associated with boys in Ethiopia and Africa at large. In a YouTube video by AFP News, Challa noted, “When you are a woman or a girl, it's very hard to skate around the boys because people think that girls should have to help their parents at the house.” Hanna Bless, a member of the group, added, “It's not really common for a girl to start skating because people don’t support you. But somebody had to be the first. Some groups had to start. And we were the first one, and I feel honored to be part of that.”

Speaking to, Solomon emphasized,”… our society doesn’t support skateboarding. It is seen as a sport practiced by ill-mannered boys, and so it was hard for a young girl like me to go against them.”

Despite the harassment and stereotypes surrounding skateboarding, these courageous girls are not deterred from engaging in this sport. The joy, confidence, and enthusiasm they exude when skating show how much they love the sport. 

Their journey has also been captured in the documentary film “Skatepark Sisterhood: Ethiopian Girl Skaters.”


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‘n Plasing gedeel deur DESTA SKATEBOARDS (@desta_skateboards)

As Solomon highlighted on, some parents oppose their children's involvement in skateboarding because of societal disapproval, perceiving it as a sport associated with unruly behavior. The potential danger risks of skating in the busy streets of Addis Ababa may also be another reason for some parents’ disapproval of this sport.

Ethiopia is grappling with significant challenges, including famine and economic hardships. As a report by the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth noted, youth employment is a major challenge for the second most populous African nation. 

As skateboarding keeps growing in the country, co-founder of EGS, Mickey Asfaw, hopes that more opportunities can be provided to young girls through this sport. 

Another positive effect of this growing sport is that the skateboarding community in Ethiopia has contributed to the development of skateparks and the enhancement of roads. An article by Zee Ngema on Okay Africa showed yet another angle by highlighting an exhibition by two self-taught skateboarders turned self-taught photographers, Yared Gobezie and Ruel Desta, entitled “The Streets, Our Playground.” Mentioning that Ethiopian Girl Skaters received international attention “for how organically and delightfully the community of young girls found each other through skateboarding,” the article praises the direction of the young skateboarding photographers:

“Now, the men representing this small but dedicated group of skaters have ventured into new creative territories to reflect the love and collective care they’ve been exposed to, sending it right back into the community itself.”

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