Afghan girls can’t ride a bike, but can ride a skateboard.
‘Skateistan’ began as a grassroots ‘Sport for Development’ project on the streets of Kabul in 2007, and is now winning awards as an international NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Skateistan is the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with education.
It all began when Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich dropped his board in Kabul in 2007. He was surrounded by the eager faces of children of all ages who wanted to be shown how to skate.
A group of Afghan friends (aged 18-22) shared Ollie’s three boards and quickly progressed in their new favourite sport—and so skateboarding hit Afghanistan. The success with the first students prompted Ollie to think bigger: by bringing more boards back to Kabul and establishing an indoor skateboarding venue, the program would be able to teach many more youth, and also be able to provide older girls with a private facility to continue skateboarding.
Skateistan has emerged as Afghanistan’s first skateboarding school, and is dedicated to teaching both male and female students. The non-profit skateboarding charity has constructed the two largest indoor sport facilities in Afghanistan, and hosts the largest female sporting organization (composed of female skateboarders). Skateistan believes that when youth come together to skateboard and play, they forge bonds that transcend social barriers.
Skateboarding is simply “the hook” for engaging with hard-to-reach young people (ages 5-18). Skateistan’s development aid programs work with growing numbers of marginalized youth through skateboarding, and provide them with new opportunities in cross-cultural interaction, education, and personal empowerment programs.
In Kabul, Skateistan’s participants come from all of Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and include 40 percent female students, hundreds of street-working children, and youth with disabilities. In the skatepark and classrooms they develop skills in skateboarding, leadership, civic responsibility, multimedia, and creative arts, exploring topics such as environmental health, culture/traditions, natural resources, and peace. The students themselves decide what they want to learn and Skateistan gives them with a safe space and opportunities to develop the skills that they consider important.
Afghanistan is Rural Women New Zealand’s ‘country of study’ for 2015.
Skateistan information courtesy of skateistan.org.