In Afghanistan, the lingering consequences of Taliban rule have limited women’s access to many things, including sport. While rights have slowly begun to improve, female athletes are disinclined to follow their passion due to the social stigma surrounding women and sport in the country.
Even so, there are people working towards change. Qudsia Khan is one of them. With the help of a UN-sponsored women’s entrepreneurship program, Khan has founded the first female football club in Afghanistan.
Since falling in love with the sport in high school, Khan has wanted to create a safe space for women to practice. However, she did not have the resources to make this reality. That soon changed when she became involved with Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan (HELA), a UN-backed organisation that supports female entrepreneurs. HELA’s Women to Business program gives them the tools they need to turn their ideas into a reality.
The CEO and Founder of HELA, Rahmatullah Hamdard, explained the program to i24NEWS: “Women are willing to do something on their own but they need an opportunity, we need to make an opportunity for them so they can raise their voice.”
Khan’s club has now grown into a small league, catering to women of all ages – a far cry from the early days, when HELA would send a bus to pick up the handful of players because they were afraid of travelling alone.
In the face of criticism and social stigma, Khan has created something that could foster a whole new generation of female athletes despite the obstacles enforced by the Taliban. It proves, when given the right tools, Afghan women can change the country for the better.
We shouldn’t give up,” Khan told i24NEWS. “We should continue, we should change these minds. If we don’t there will be no one who can change their minds.”