Lornah Kiplagat: "Even in a war, sports can get communication going"

March 2008 -

The government of the Netherlands has earmarked sixteen million euros to stimulate sports in ten developing countries over the next four years. Long-distance runner Lornah Kiplagat will be the project's ambassador. The Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation, Koenders, is enthusiastic about Kiplagat and the new policy. "I believe in the power of sports. In the Rift Valley, Lornah Kiplagat organises sports contests. Those are the moments when cooperation and brotherhood can be seen. I am proud that Lornah is our ambassador and I hope she will share her expertise with us."


The Kenyan runner, who now also has the Dutch nationality, puts part of the money she earns for starting and as awards for winning into the Lornah Kiplagat Foundation. This foundation trains young Kenyan female runners and gives them an education. Kiplagat knows from experience how hard it is for young women to go their own way. "I had to run early in the morning so that people would not see me in my tight running pants. If someone came along, I would quickly hide in the bushes. If my father and brothers had not supported me, I would never have been able to achieve this," she explains.

The results prove that Kiplagat's method works. In the past year, 29 of the Foundation's pupils entered an American university. "We can use sports as a basis for emancipating girls and women," according to Kiplagat. "Sports and development go together. I cannot think of a better way to reach people."

The policy memorandum 'Sports and development cooperation: a chance to score' was presented by Minister Koenders of Development Cooperation and Deputy Minister Bussemaker of Sports on 12 February 2008, with Lornah Kiplagat attending. The government's objective is to link information campaigns, about aids and malaria, for example, to sports activities. It also hopes that sports can be used in conflict areas like Kenya to bring people together. Kiplagat's activities prove that this can be done. Even in the past month, when Kenya was drenched in a wave of violence, there was still time for sports.

"We organised a run and asked that roadblocks be removed so that we could pass. And they were! Thanks to the event, the people stopped thinking about the misery for a while, and relaxed. Even in times of war, sports can get communication going."

February 2008 a biography of Lornah Kiplagat was published by Conserve, 'Het meisje van de nacht'. Author: Marco Knippen.