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.
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.
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.
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