Author Archives: Shannon Galpin

Border Free Cycling

There is a new bike club in town.  Border Free Cycling Club is the latest bike club to form in Kabul, and its founders hope to focus attention on gender equity by forming a mixed gender bike club.  Its co-founders are Halima and Hoor, a young woman and young man that believe everyone has the right to ride, and bikes can be a tool for gender equality.

The ripples of each action taken in Afghanistan continue to intersect.  Halima helped found the Girl Up bike club that formed in 2014 with Fatima Hadairi who worked with us last summer.  While that club was unable to continue past its initial summer due to leadership when Fatima went back to the United States to go to university.  Two members in particular have created ripples. The first is Nahid, who is now part of the Afghan National Team.  The second, an American university student, Halima has joined forces with fellow peace activist, and a male supporter of gender equity, Hoor Arifi.

They posted an inspiring photo from their first ride.  This is a first step, and we are excited to introduce them to Zahra in Bamiyan and the national team in Kabul as they aim to coordinate efforts beyond racing for gender equity and activism on bikes.

The symbol of Border Free and of the Cycling Club by the same name is a blue scarf that is made by Afghan seamstresses.  Keep an eye out, you’ll be seeing more of these blue scarves.

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Bike the Nobel

On Friday, the Italian radio station, RAI2 hosted a press conference in Milan, announcing  the formal nomination of the bike for the Nobel Peace Prize.  They launched a campaign months ago to get enough signatures for a nomination.  The really beautiful part?  They chose the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team as the human representation of the bike’s power of social justice and activism.

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The bike has been a vehicle for human rights for over a century, since American women first started riding and soon the bike became the symbol for the suffragette movement.  The Afghan women that dare to ride as part of the national team have shown that the bike equals freedom.

The Nobel Peace Prize nomination recognizes the bravery, the courage, and the ability of these women to take back the streets and their rights on bikes.  These young women, and the women like them now riding in other parts of Afghanistan, are on the front lines of a gender revolution on two wheels.

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A bike relay set off from Milan to carry the nomination to Oslo, Norway to present the nomination to the Nobel Peace Prize committee by bike.  We believe that bikes are a vehicle for social justice, and that they can be tools for gender equity and social activism.  We couldn’t be prouder to see the bike’s recognition and the recognition of the Afghan women that ride.

#pedalarevolution

photo by Deni Bechard

Afghan Cycling US Tour

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We are in the initial stages of bringing several Afghan cyclists to the United States next summer for a cultural exchange and training camp.  We are excited to work with the law firm Hogan Lovells who is helping us with the logistics and has officially come on as a sponsor of the team to assist in the expenses of getting the team to the US for training camps, coaching clinics, and community rides.

The idea?  Expose these young women to cycling at its highest level with trips to Philadelphia to watch a World Championship women’s race, introduce them to top coaches, professional racers, and visit the US Olympic Training Center.  We also plan to have their participation at several Afghan Cycles screenings after it premieres so that they can take the stage and own their own story.

At the same time, we aim to build long term support of these young women in the communities that support cycling and have supported our work in Afghanistan.  This is an opportunity to engage with these young women directly in community rides and some private events.  We will be organizing fundraisers and rides primarily in Colorado and California, but there may be some east coast venues as well.

We are raising the funds necessary to bring 6-8 girls here for one month and during that time we will also be discussing opportunities and next steps with the team. One goal is to coordinate further education with two of the members that would like to be trained as coaches.  They are studying to be sports trainers at Kabul University, but getting them trained as cycling coaches could provide a job source and longevity with the women’s team looking ahead.

We are excited to engage the Mountain2Mountain audience and community to welcome these young women to the US next summer.  If you want to contribute to support getting the girls here you can donate at www.mountain2mountain.org/donate

If you want to volunteer your time, open your home, or ride with the girls while they are here, we will be coordinating that effort once we know dates and logistics.  Stay tuned and thank you for believing in this program and these young women.

#pedalarevolution

Afghan Cycling Program Evolves

The women that dare to ride have been inspiring other women to ride and the result is seeing more girls learning to ride bikes in various parts of the country.  While the number is still small, it’s mighty.  These young women are on the front line of a civil rights movement over their own mobility and freedom.

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This year we spent time in Bamiyan with Zahra, a young woman that learned to ride when she was a little girl in Iran.  She started teaching others to ride as a means of getting to school.  While she has been threatened, mostly she has found ways to work within the community to change the culture as thoughtfully as she can.  She has been the force behind several public rides and races in the community for girls, and this summer she formally registered her group of girls as a club with the sports federation.

In Kabul, we have seen more girls join the National Team, despite a decrease in security.  Nazifa is finished school to become a midwife and Frozan and Massouma are at university studying to become sports trainers.  Sadaf is no longer riding on the team, and we definitely missed her smile and spark on our last training ride.  Mariam is working more and more as Coach’s assistant and training less.IMG_4339

We worked this summer with Fatima Hadairi, who started a small bike club in Kabul last summer. She worked with us as a translator in Bamiyan and it allowed us to introduce her to Zahra and the girls in Bamiyan as well as to the girls of the national team.  One of the young girls, Nahim, who rode with Fatima last summer has joined the national team, which is wonderful to see some of the threads beginning to connect.10338763_328839847273640_7819395188590304469_n

Another thread is with Zhala, a young women we met briefly that rode a bike at the Mountain2Mountain – Bike School in the spring of 2013 as part of the final Sound Central Festival.  We’ve seen her on Kabul training rides with the national team since, and she took part in this October’s Tour de Bamiyan, the only girl from the national team to take part.

Progress is evolving throughout the country with the youth movement, time will tell if the security situation will stabilize so that more girls can begin to ride safely, but in the meantime, none of these girls plan to stop.  They have seized their freedom, convinced their families to support them, and the more press and media they get gives them the ammunition to change their culture, one pedal stroke at a time. 

You can support these women and the Afghan Cycling Program by donating at www.mountain2mountain.org/donate

Holiday Gifts With Heart and Purpose

This holiday Mountain2Mountain has a few ideas for you to support our work in Afghanistan. Short and sweet we aren’t going to write a novel.  (That’s what our founder did – you can buy Mountain to Mountain: A Journey of Activism and Adventure for the Women of Afghanistan online or in bookstores)  We just want ask for your support and give you some ways to support our work while spreading holiday cheer to friends and family.

For the photographers, street artists, or lovers of Afghan culture in your life, give the coffee table book, Streets of Afghanistan. Art as activism and the power of photography to inspire and engage community.  A behind the scenes look at the groundbreaking Streets of Afghanistan pop up photography installation that took place across Afghanistan in 2012.  A collaboration of Afghan and Western photographers, this exhibition was documented by Tony Di Zinno in 2008 at its inception and in 2012 in 5 of the outdoor venues in Afghanistan.  You can purchase directly here:

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For the cyclists and bike lovers in your community and family, you can gift them cycling kits just like the Afghan women wear and support our Strength in Numbers program that supports the Afghan women’s national team, two Afghan girls bike clubs, and is launching its first US based program in 2015.  Worn below by 4 time World Ironman Champion, Chrissie Wellington!  Produced by PrimalWear we have mens and women’s cycling kits available in Small, Medium, and Large.  We also have long sleeve wind jackets for women’s only in small, medium, and large. You can order directly from us at info@mountain2mountain.org

Pricing = $110 for each jacket, $100 for jerseys and $95 for the shorts – this includes all US shipping.  Overseas orders may have extra shipping charges.  Get yours now and rock it all year in support of the women that dare to ride!

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Lastly, we couldn’t do our work without your direct financial support.

We need your help to continue our work, project by project, one step at a time, so please consider an end of year donation, and perhaps consider making a gift of a donation in a friend or family member’s name.   You can donate directly at www.mountain2mountain.org/donate  

 

100 Bikes for Afghan Girls This Holiday

Last holiday season we ran a fundraising campaign to raise money to purchase bikes for Afghan girls that were beginning to ride… we delivered over 40 bikes to young women that dare to challenge the gender barrier that has prevented women being able to ride bikes in Afghanistan. Whether members of the National Cycling Team getting bikes to take home and ride, or girls in Kabul, Bamiyan and Mazar i Sharif that are teaching each other to ride bikes for fun, for health, and for transpiration to school. IMG_4606 Mountain 2 Mountain’s work with the national team and these burgeoning ‘clubs’ have meant that we donated over 55 racing bikes for the mens and women’s team thanks to Liv Cycling and over 40 locally built commuter bikes for girls to take home and ride with friends, sisters, brothers, and fathers. This year we hope we can make our goal of 100 bikes that we can give to girls that dare to ride, but don’t have a bike of their own. Together we can pedal a revolution this holiday season and empower young women with independent mobility and freedom!! Each bike is $100 – its locally built bike that they can easily maintain and won’t be a theft risk, and includes a helmet! We will check in every few months to check on maintenance, etc. and make sure they are being maintained. You can donate today through Mountain 2 Mountain! http://www.mountain2mountain.org/donate Huge thanks for the support of these young women to challenge the cultural norms to empower themselves, one pedal stroke at a time. Want to learn more about the work we are doing in Afghanistan with the women’s team? here’s a recap of some of the press that’s hit recently! BBC World News The Guardian  IMG_4587

Kabul Biker Gang Gets Some Bikes

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Ask anyone you know about their love of bikes and they all say something about freedom.  “I feel free when I ride my bike”.  “I love the freedom I feel when I ride.” “Cycling gives you wings.”

In a country where women and girls have not been allowed to ride bikes, and where it is still a deeply seated taboo, there is a two wheeled revolution taking place.  What was a handful of girls just a couple years ago, is steadily growing and growing without the oversight of men.  Girls teaching girls to ride.  In Kabul, in Bamiyan, and in other pockets in the country women are empowering themselves with freedom of mobility.

Last summer, as we were working with the national team in Kabul and  riding bikes with two young women in Bamiyan, a young Afghan woman was spearheading her own bike clubs as part of a Girl Up project.  Fatima Haidari goes to high school in the US and spends her summers back in Kabul with her family.  We found out about her project and fell in love with the photos she posted of her and the girls in Kabul riding bikes they had borrowed.

Last month, we donated ten bikes to the club so that the girls would have some bikes of their own to ride.  Our longtime friend and fixer, Najibullah met Nahid, who had become the de facto leader of the club while Fatima is away at school, at the bike market to purchase bikes for the girls and arrange delivery.  The film crew from Afghan Cycles was in country finishing production and was able to be there for the delivery and interview the girls who have formed their own biker gang Kabul-style.

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The bike has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. Its gives women a feeling of freedom and self reliance.  I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” Susan B. Anthony

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If you’d like to support this two wheeled revolution – you can donate here – what we do doesn’t happen without your help!

photo credit Jenny Nichols

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Women Ride Bamiyan – Cycling Takes Over

Last week, high in the Hindu Kush, a bike race was born. And there were girls. Girls borrowed bikes and took over the main road out of Bamiyan and their smiles tell the story.  The girl in the burgundy hat is Zahra, one of the first girls in the region to ride a bike.  She started teaching other girls to ride, and today there are around 30, many riding their bikes not for sport, but to get to and from school.  One of the young men that races on the men’s national team from Bamiyan, Mohammad, was part of the ride and supported these girls as a race official.

We have had the pleasure of skiing and riding with some of these girls, including Zahra, last spring, and in May there were only a handful of girls riding.  We hosted a training camp with the Kabul based national team, and Mohammad joined us for that ride too.  We met with Zahra and learned more about her story and why she started teaching young women to ride and how the community has reacted.  We rode around in front of the buddha niches and through town, while a young group of boys followed us around excitedly.  The number of girls riding here continues to grow, as does our desire to support them as they normalize bikes in their community, one girl at a time.   #pedalarevolution


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Global Solidarity Ride Pedals into 19 countries

We are still in the midst of tallying numbers and sifting through photos and stories but in the end we had over 70 rides in 19 countries taking part this past weekend.  Individual rides Belgium and Norway, a critical mass ride in Poland, and group rides large and small across the world.  There was an incredible community and fundraising ride in Warragul, Australia that challenged the riders to combine their mileage to cover the 11,230 miles it took to get from Warragul to Kabul.  They raised several thousand dollars with a movie screening/fundraising night, and a community effort of riding that blew us away.   We even had 4 time world Ironman champion, Chrissie Wellington, rocking the Afghan jersey and dedicating her ride to the Global Solidarity Ride, during the last day of racing the Haute Route Alps, arguably the toughest sportive.  

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Rides took place around the world in Brazil, Scotland, India, British Colombia, Philippines, Yangon, China, England, Taiwan, Japan, Poland, France, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Norway, Belgium, Italy, across the US in cities like; LA, Brooklyn, Scottsdale, Phoenix, Belfast, Seattle, Austin, Denver, Breckenridge, Durango, Saratoga Springs, Boulder, Ojai, Telluride, Denton, Plano, Reno, Manhattan, Willard, Roseville, Bend, San Diego, Medina, Los Altos, Bellow Falls, Aspen, Portland, Thousand Oakes, and in Afghanistan.  Yup, we definitely missed more than a few cities in this list, and we’ll work to sift through the posts, tweets, emails, and instagrams to put it all together… but its been mind-blowing to see all of your rides!  Thank you!!  

We look forward to sharing more photos and stories, and we will keep you all updated on the progress and  plans with the Afghan women’s cycling program, and the upcoming documentary Afghan Cycles that is documenting these women and the others learning to ride in Afghanistan.  They inspire us daily and we know now that they inspire you.  We will create a book of photos from all of your rides to share with the girls on our next visit.  

Keep sending in photos and stories to info@mountain2mountain and stay tuned for more information and updates by following Mountain2Mountain and Global Solidarity Ride on Facebook.  

Liv Launches Video with Ambassador Shannon Galpin

Today Liv announced their partnership with our founder, as their newest global ambassador and their sponsorship as a presenting sponsor of the upcoming documentary, Afghan Cycles.  Today they launched their latest brand video with our founder, Shannon Galpin.  The video highlights her work in Afghanistan with the women’s cycling team and gives a sneak peek of the documentary Afghan Cycles that is still in production.  Never seen footage of the women riding in Afghanistan along with Shannon telling the story of how she became the first person to mountain bike in Afghanistan as a way to explore the country and to challenge the gender barriers that prevented Afghan girls from riding bikes.  Now we see the first generation of girls and young women riding bikes as part of the women’s national cycling team and are watching a revolution unfold in real time as other young girls are learning to ride for the first time.

 

Liv Beyond – Shannon Galpin as Liv Ambassador from LET MEDIA on Vimeo.

 

Inspired?  Get involved this Saturday, August 30th as part of the Global Solidarity Ride.  Over 60 bike rides in 13 countries creates a global movement on two wheels in support of the Afghan women who dare to ride.  You can join one of the existing rides listed here, create your own, or simply dedicate your bike ride on Saturday to the Afghan girls.  Send us photos, tell us where you rode, and instagram or tweet with #solidarityride2014.  You can join the conversation on Facebook here.  You can support this work and donate at www.mountain2mountain.org/donate

#pedalarevolution

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