Last Tuesday, September 5th, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the Skate Girls of Kabul at the Ismaili Centre in North York. In late 2012, Jessica Fulford-Dobson, a well-renowned London-based photographer, flipped through the daily newspaper and found, what most may have missed since it was such a small column, news of Afghan girls enrolled in an after-school skateboarding program. To the West, this article may not have been so fascinating to hear as skateboarding is a common activity for anyone to do, but in a city like Kabul, Afghanistan, children, specifically girls, are more limited from the kinds of activities they can engage in to the types of clothes they should wear.
After doing her research, Jessica discovered that the skateboarding program was part of a non-profit organization called Skateistan. Skateistan, founded in 2009, is an international NGO that focusses on empowering youth and children through skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa.
Thanks to a good friend of mine who shared this event with me I had the chance to see the captivating images taken by Jessica during her time in Kabul from the girls’ homes, during school lessons, to the skate park. Every photo had a story behind it. The outdoor exhibition showcased some of the girls running so excitedly towards the minivan that picked them up for school every day, the classroom moments where the girls are seen very keen to learn, and of course, at the skate park where all the fun and excitement come to light. Jessica was joined with guest panel members, Beth Malcolm, Director of the Girls’ Fund at Canadian Women’s Foundation, and Shabana Saidali, former Skateistan participant, volunteer teacher and translator who now resides in Toronto. All three panel members expressed how much the program has helped girls build confidence and feel empowered, but ultimately, provide them with the resources and education they need to reach their greatest potential.
It was so refreshing to see and hear the stories behind Skateistan and Jessica’s journey in capturing these photos and sharing it with the rest of the world. It truly resurged the feeling of hope and I am sure it inspired not only me, but everyone who had attended the event. Every so often, we only hear conflicts and negativity happening around us and then you hear the Skate Girls of Kabul – what an amazing cause to support and share with others.
If you would like to see more of the outdoor installation it runs until October 8th, 2017 at the Aga Khan Museum. To learn more about Skateistan simply visit agakhanpark.org.
I will leave you with a quote by Jessica Fulford-Dobson:
“The skate girls asset hope, and vitality, and the unselfconscious dignity of girlhood everywhere”.