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"Free to Run has taught me so many things...I was so happy to represent my country and prove that Afghan women are strong."

2020 Beyond Sport Global Award Shortlister for Peace & Social Justice, Free to Run uses adventure sports to develop female leaders in regions of conflict. Hasina is one of those leaders. Read about her experience in her own words below and then Take the Journey with all our Shortlisters through December at beyondsport.org/journey.

I am 24 years old originally from Maidan Wardak province in Afghanistan, which is controlled by the Taliban. Now I live in Kabul. In 2016, a friend told me about an organization who were looking for girls interested in sport. They took girls hiking in the Central Highlands region.

I’d just graduated from the Physical Education Institute and they said I was welcome to join if I could get permission from my parents. Even though I live in the capital where it’s more open-minded, my family and our community are very traditional. To get permission from them would be a big deal.

When Free to Run asked me to attend a sports week in another province, I was worried and scared my parents wouldn’t let me go. But I talked and talked to them until they finally agreed. I was happy because it was unthinkable at first, but sad because my father wouldn’t talk to me afterwards.

I traveled to another province without my family as a 20-year-old Afghan girl. It was my first time going hiking and seeing mountains up close. My second trip was for the 2016 Marathon of Afghanistan - my first 10km race. From then on, I resolved to one day run a full marathon. I trained hard and did so in 2017.

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When I came home, I joined Free to Run’s Community Development Leadership Programme to work with high school girls because I understood what running could bring to their lives. Since I was such a dedicated participant and volunteer, I was selected for the 2018 RacingThePlanet 250km ultra race in Mongolia.

I was so happy to represent my country and prove that Afghan women are strong. When we came home, I remember feeling sad because I thought my journey with Free to Run was over, but I was wrong.

A month later, they told me about an open position as the Kabul Programme Officer. I interviewed and was selected! It’s been a year and a half since I started. I oversee the community development leaders who lead our Life Skills through Sports and Nutrition programs and manage the marathon training program. Recently, I was promoted to Country Program Manager overseeing all five provinces’ programmes.

Free to Run has taught me so many things. I faced lots of challenges and problems along the way because people here think women and girls are only for housework. I am happy that I could change my family’s mind - including my father’s - to respect me. Now I have no problems participating in sport or traveling alone to other provinces. I have turned my passion for sports and women’s rights into a career.

I am really happy that I work with girls, teaching them life skills so they can find their way like me. Through them we change our community’s minds about girls and their right to freedom.

Next

"Sharing your work with the entire Beyond Sport Community is a gift to us all"

Former Beyond Sport Global Award Winners and Shortlisters give words of wisdom and encouragement to this year’s Shortlist and reflect on why sport is such a powerful tool to address Global Goals