Under the Taliban rule in the mid 1990s, most Afghan children had no opportunity to play sports. So in the summer of 2004, after the fall of the Taliban, Awista Ayub, who had grown up in Afghanistan, brought eight Afghan girls to the United States for a soccer clinic.
In her newly published book, Kabul Girls Soccer Club, Ayub tells her own story and how these eight girls found the strength in each other, in teamwork, and in themselves, to take risks to obtain the kinds of freedoms that many of us take for granted. Fifteen teams now compete in the Afghanistan Football Federation, with hundreds of girls participating.
Ayub was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. In 1981, at the age of two, her family brought her to the United States where she thrived through organized athletics. She was determined to make a difference in her home country someday, and after September 11, 2001, she was inspired to start the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange, an organization dedicated to nurturing Afghan girls through soccer.
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“While the field of sports and development is still relatively young, evidence is growing that sports can play a key role in creating a safe space for women outside of the home and even go so far as to change the role of women in society long-term,” Ayub said. “Sports as an instrument for empowering women and girls in developing countries has engendered increased interest and support within the international development community in recent years.”
When boys see girls in a new, action-oriented role, they learn about the strengths and capabilities that girls and women possess.