The bicycle is a commonly used metaphor for change and freedom – wheels in motion, self powered movement, pedaling a revolution…
The bicycle lives up to this metaphor in Afghanistan as the Women’s National Cycling Team begins to take shape.
Cycling is not an acceptable thing for women to do in Afghanistan, even while women’s sports grow and the first Afghan women have competed in the Olympics, cycling is still considered culturally offensive. But when the men’s team formed, Kabul girls wanted to ride. At this point, the team is made up of 10-12 women, and despite officially forming the national women’s team, they must be kept as an underground sport. Using borrowed gear, they are trying to build the team and the sport. Whether or not they are aware of it, what they are doing is a huge step for Afghan women as there are only 60-70 female riders throughout the entire country.
I am proud to announce that this spring we are partnering with the Mountain2Mountain‘s domestic program Strength in Numbers to tell the story of the Women’s Cycling Team in Afghanistan. We will be making a short documentary film about what it means to ride in the controversial country. From their everyday realities at home, to their religious and cultural traditions and lifestyles, we will be following the brave women taking the risk to follow their passion for mountain biking.
When most of us think about the women of this war-torn region, oppression and cruelty is what comes to mind, but in the 1950s, Afghan women led similar lives to Western women of that same era. They wore modern clothing, held jobs in the workplace, and enjoyed many more freedoms than Afghan women do today. The majority of Afghan women of today are covered up and controlled by the men who hold all the power. The only women you see cycling, ride sidesaddle on the back of a man’s bike. This team of cyclists is a powerful example of what it means to put it all on the line, and in turn, challenging the assumptions we have about the role of women in society.
We are pulling in some exciting players to help tell this story – marketing genius Whitney Conner Clapper is the founder of Side of the Road Sessions, writer and producer Anna Brones, narrative photographer Claudia Lopez, and founder of Combat Apathy and Mountain2Mountain, Shannon Galpin. As the filmmaker behind the project, it is an honor to be amongst this caliber of talent, creativity, and inspiration.
Production is scheduled for this spring, and between now and then we are organizing numerous gear drives for cycling equipment. We’ll be bringing as much new and used gear as we can for both the men’s and the women’s cycling teams, and we could use all the support we can get. To get involved, please contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah at email@example.com.