Thanks to the non-profit Skateistan, these girls have found a new way to have fun on wheels and feel empowered.
Females riding bikes in Afghanistan is seen to be offensive and taboo, but thanks to a non-profit called Skateistan, these girls have been gifted a new way to have fun on wheels.
Inspired to help marginalized youth feel empowered, Skateistan uses skateboarding to help rescue kids from the streets and transition them into a community inspired to teach them about leadership and independence.
As shared on the non-profit’s website, over 60 percent of their students are low-income and do not have access to education. The organization believes, however, that once they hook the kids into the program, the possibilities are endless.
Whether it’s inspiring a young kid to feel confidence and autonomy through skateboarding, or just simply letting them know someone cares, the program has encouraged kids to believe in themselves.
Shared Jessica Fulford-Dobson with BBC World Service, “When skateboarding came into Afghanistan they didn’t even know what it was.”
Inspired by the young women’s joy, the photographer approached Skateistan in 2012 asking if she could document their life and community.
One girl’s portrait in particular won 2nd place in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.
“She first caught my eye because she was wearing such a beautiful color,” remembers Jessica. “She’s just immaculate. From the way she has tied her headscarf so beautifully and so naturally, you see that she has an innate sense of grace. Her little hennaed hand rests gently – yet possessively – on the skateboard, and how small she seems beside it! I love her assurance: her firm, steady gaze. One feels a sense of depth in her eyes, even though she is just 7 years of age.”
Attending the Back to School Skate program for just one year allowed the young girl in the prize-winning portrait (to the right) to pass her first three educational grades. She is now enrolled in the national school system, and still skates in her free time.
While it may be an unconventional way to offer an education, the program has proven successful. Since Skateistan started in 2007, their student count has risen to 1,200 kids being taught to skate each week around the globe. Most impressive? 40% are girls.