Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Skateistan - Empowering Afghan Youth Through Skateboarding

skateistan kabul mazar i sharif, afghan girls sports
Image courtesy Skateistan
What an inspiring project!

Since 2007 NGO Skateistan has taught skateboarding and creative arts to girls and boys in Kabul.  In May 2013 a second facility was opened in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, just 100 kms from the ancient Uzbek city of Termez.

Started by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, Skateistan works with young people 5 - 18 years old, of whom 50% are street-working children, i.e. they may wash cars, sell lighters or even guns.

Afghan girls cannot ride bicycles nor participate in most sports, e.g. football. Skateboarding, however, was unknown in Afghanistan; from the beginning, Percovich worked hard to win the support of local religious leaders for girls' participation. Girls now make up 40% of the students.

afghanistan sports, skateistan kabul mazar i sharif
Afghan girls make their own skateboards, image Skateistan
Skateboarding is of course the *hook*. It is fun, builds confidence and young people engage with one another. However, the program has a strong education focus as well:

1.    The Arts Based Education Program is equal to the time spent skateboarding. The curriculum was developed and is taught by peers and both literate and illiterate youth participate. Art is used to level the playing field and the workshops include photography, spray painting, theatre and illustration.

2.    The Back to School Program is divided into three four-month semesters.  During each semester students study the equivalent of one grade of school, coming to Skateistan five days a week. The goal of the program is to get children in Afghanistan enrolled or re-enrolled into the public school system. Upon completion of the program students can apply for enrolment into a government school, usually entering the 3rd or 4th grade.

So far 103 Afghan children have been enrolled into school through the program, nearly half of them Afghan girls. Each day, 40 youth (20 girls, 20 boys) attend the Back to School program in Kabul, with a similar program planned for the Skateistan facility in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Skateistan: The Tale of Skateboarding in Afghanistan was published recently. This 320-page colour book features stunning, previously unpublished photographs accompanied by essays, interviews and personal stories from Skateistan's founder Oliver Percovich and the young people who have gone from being students to teachers in the skate park and classrooms.

This is such an uplifting story. Consider buying the book for yourself and additional copies for friends and family.  It is not only beautifully produced, the design and content are very cool. All proceeds go directly back to Skateistan.

See the joy of these young Afghan girls as they learn and skateboard in the terrific 2-minute video clip below with a great soundtrack by Florence and the Machine. (If the clip does not play on your device, go directly to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93eSM9mWkkk )

Related posts: White Silk Road - Snowboarding Afghanistan
Cricket in Afghanistan and Tajikistan
Afghan Art - Tradition and Continuity
Skateistan: Kabul's Skate School Turns Five