Skateistan, a non-profit organisation, is signing children up to free skateboarding lessons in the war-torn country. The charity was founded by Australian Oliver Percovich who wanted to create role models for working street children, hoping to offer an alternative to following war lords and criminals. Skateboarding was chosen because it is one of the few sports officially acceptable for Afghan girls to participate in: there’s not enough skateboarding to have attracted any official recognition.
Although the charity serves both boys and girls, it has gone to especially great lengths for its girls; for example, it hosts all-girl classes that are taught by female teachers. It also provides a separate safe facility for girls to skate, and free, safe transportation to it. Over 800 children have participated, from a range of different backgrounds, includingsocial class.
Skateistan also runs a ‘Back to School’ programme to help students get enrolled (or re-enrolled) in the country’s public school system, and a youth leadership programme, which helps older students transition into full-time instructors, teachers and speakers.
One student in the programme is 16-year-old Madina Saidy, who is now a teacher and recently represented Skateistan at the U.N. Habitat's World Urban Forum, where she spoke in front of 25,000 participants on urban equity.
Safe contexts and informal activities to help women and girls grow in confidence could have a significant impact on the participation of women in education and employment – if coupled with policies to enable and encourage access. The long-term impact of such schemes could be beneficial not only for the young women it serves, but for Afghanistan’s economy and international relations.