The idea of females riding bikes in Afghanistan is considered offensive and taboo, but one nonprofit has given these girls a different kind of fun on wheels.
Helping marginalized youth to feel empowered, Skateistan uses skateboarding to rescue kids from the streets and transition them into a community that will teach them about leadership and independence.
According to the Skateistan website, over 60 percent of their students are low-income and do not have access to education. Skateistan believes that once they hook the kids into the program, the possibilities are endless.
Whether it’s instilling feelings of confidence and autonomy through skateboarding, or simply letting children know that someone cares, the program has encouraged kids to believe in themselves.
“When skateboarding came into Afghanistan,” Jessica Fulford-Dobson, photographer of Skate Girls of Kabul, told the BBC World Service, “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.”
After just one year of attending the Back to School Skate program, the girl in the prize-winning portrait (left) has passed her first three educational grades, and is now enrolled in the national school system, and still skates in her free time.
It may not be a conventional way of offering an education, but since Skateistan started in 2007, their student count has risen to 1,200 kids being taught to skate each week around the globe, 40% of which are girls.
Photo Credit by Jessica Fulford-Dobson / Story Tip by Joel Arellano