Sosina (Soisy) Challa founded Ethiopian Girl Skaters, one of Ethiopia’s first female-only skateboarding organizations, with trepidation and worry.
She disclosed to British Vogue, “I had no idea how it would go, how people would see it, if people would consider it acceptable,” and was concerned, among other things, that girls wouldn’t feel comfortable trying new things, that their parents wouldn’t let them come, and that it would seem too dangerous.
Her first class at Addis Skate Park drew a few girls ranging in age from 10 to 25. The club has grown to approximately 60 members since then.
Today, the “Free skateboarding lessons for girls” leaflets she distributed on Instagram and Telegram Messenger in 2021 have changed the lives of many young Ethiopian girls who would never have envisioned themselves participating in the male-dominated skateboarding industry.
The young leader grew interested in skating about five years ago after observing a few lads in a parking lot in Addis Abeba’s Sarbet district while returning from the preparatory school where she had been studying medicine.
Despite the fact that her dress ripped on her first effort, Challa remembered going back and “just following the boys” until she worked it out. She instantly joined Ethiopia Skate, a small non-profit that assists skateboarders.
One of her proudest achievements was helping to establish Ethiopia’s first skate park in the city with her own hands. She has had the opportunity to build three other parks in and around her home country, the largest of which is located in Hawasa, a city south of Addis Abeba.
“I’ve learned so much from skating,” Challa said. “When you skate, you fall, and you get up and keep doing it. That’s the same with the way you live. If you fall, you get up and do it; you don’t stop until you’re doing it.”
According to her, “Skateboarding is like a drug for me. It feels really good when you do it. But once I really started, I learned more about myself.”
The Ethiopian Girl Skaters, which she co-founded with her partner Micky Asfaw, are currently bringing girls of all ages and backgrounds together around the country. According to Shine My Crown, the organization has created an effort that challenges the notion that women should not participate in extreme sports such as skateboarding.
Many members of Ethiopian Girls Skaters, many of whom are schoolgirls, can be seen at skateparks wearing jeans, sweatpants, and abayas, practicing landing tricks, finding their balance, and building confidence.
Hanas, a 22-year-old club member, noted that Challa’s accomplishments, while rare, are appreciated because most people are against women participating in sports. “But somebody had to be the first; some group had to start and we were the first one and I feel honored to be part of that,” she said in an interview with WION.
Another member of the group, Iman Mahmud, shared that since she began skateboarding, she doesn’t mind what others think anymore, “It helped me defeat my fears. I just enjoy it. It makes me happy.”