writer + artist

The Power of the Bicycle: Women Riding in Afghanistan

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What if you were told you couldn’t ride a bicycle?

Would you give up the joy of two wheels or would you accept the risks and pedal anyway?

For women in Afghanistan, riding a bicycle is taboo. But there are women doing it regardless of those taboos and cultural expectations, and their story is inspiring, the topic of the upcoming film Afghan Cycles.

I traveled to Afghanistan a few years ago with my good friend Shannon Galpin. I remember the exact moment when we were sitting in a cafe and learned that there was a women’s cycling team.

A women’s cycling team. In Afghanistan.

We were speechless. There were women on bikes in Afghanistan??

Since then, a movement has begun to take place, and Galpin has been making sure that it happens. Last year she and the women’s cycling brand Liv brought bikes and gear to Afghanistan to ensure that these women could ride. Now there’s not just a women’s team in Kabul, there are small groups of women cyclists popping up in other parts of the country as well. Women in Afghanistan are riding bicycles.

Because it’s fun. Because it makes them smile. Because they deserve to have the same rights their brothers do.

Just read this excerpt from a piece on the Afghan Women’s Writing Project to gauge the amount of enthusiasm embodied in a bicycle:

My friend Halima is a business student at a university in Kabul. When I asked her if she wanted to join us for a bike ride in Kabul she said she had never ridden a bike, but she would practice. I was impressed by her enthusiasm, but I was very surprised when she called me just a day later.

“Hey Fatima, I learned how to ride a bike last night. I am going to join you today!”

“Halima, I know you are excited, but biking is not something you can learn in one night and we are biking in the crowded streets of Kabul. I am not sure you would feel comfortable doing that! Are you sure you want to join?”
“I am going to be there, Fatima! See you!”

How could I not feel proud and delighted when I am surrounded by such girls? Halima’s commitment is just one example. These girls turn obstacles into opportunities. Halima did not give up on ever learning to ride a bike just because she did not learn as a child; instead, she made it an opportunity to discover a new skill.

If you’ve ever been a believer that the bicycle can be a vehicle for social justice, this is your proof.

Change is possible.

How can you support these women? This weekend on August 30th, Galpin and her organization Mountain2Mountain are behind a Global Solidarity Ride, with communities gathering together to ride in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan that risk it all for the pure pleasure of being on two wheels. There might just be a ride organized in your city, and if there’s not, do your own!

Wherever you are in the world, consider getting on your bicycle to show your solidarity. Let’s all ride for change, no matter where we live.

Written by Anna Brones

August 27, 2014 at 18:10

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