I was listening to a story this morning on the radio about Maria Toorpakai, a young women in Pakistan who had a talent for the game Squash. She showed so much interest in the sport that her parents allowed her to pose as a boy to participate at a local club. When she was no longer able to hide her gender, she left Pakistan for Canada. A touching story with a happy ending.
Skateistan, Afghanistan’s first and only skateboard school is no stranger to awards and accolades. Recently they were ranked amongst a short list off the top 100 Non-Governmental Organizations. As one could expect the list is filled with many groups working on big important issues. The impact that Skateistan can achieve may on the surface seem minimal, though as most of us who have had skateboarding in our lives know, it has saved some of us from an otherwise mundane existence.
Skateistan has focused its efforts on making a societal change. IOU Ramps just finished up work on a new facility in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north of Afghanistan. This spreads the reach of an organization that looks at the role of women and the youth population wholly different then much of the NGO world. Rather then simply make a place where children will get an education and move on, they have created a facility that allows youth to re-contextuallize their lives in their country. The mundane and fatalism they are born into has a chance to shed, by an unlikely toy on four wheels.
The double standards that envelop girls and sports in the region, somehow skipped over the skateboard. So while the Pakistani Squash player Maria Toorpakai may not have had a choice but to leave her country; the young women and girls of Skateistan are staying, working towards a new Afghanistan.