This is Worth Your Time: Support the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team

Yes, you read that headline right. A women’s national cycling team is beginning to take shape in Afghanistan.

We talk a lot about inviting more women to join the cycling party. About empowering women to pedal and explore and race and just go for it. In so many ways this project in Afghanistan symbolizes, in a very profound way, the most important thing that the women-on-bikes movement can achieve: the end of oppression, the facilitation of freedom, a positive contribution to the progression of human rights.

It is culturally offensive for a woman to ride a bike in Afghanistan. Forget “feeling left out of the men’s peloton” or “getting shafted in the local bicycle shop”. The women who ride in Afghanistan do it at the risk of their own personal safety. They do it as a statement – a very literal statement – of freedom. And now, they propose to do it as sport. On behalf of their country. On borrowed gear and scraped together bikes.

I recently became a member of a group called Combat Apathy. It is, in founder Shannon Galpin’s words, “A battalion of passionate mothers, daughters, and sisters, that are willing to sacrifice time, money, and energy to be crusaders of gender equity and human rights.”

Galpin was the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan (2009) and then traveled back to Afghanistan in 2010 to ride across the Panjshir Valley, which was documented by Outside Magazine. She was also recognized for her work by National Geographic in November 2012 as one as their 2013 Adventurers of the Year.

Now Galpin, along with filmmaker Sarah Menzies, is planning to return one more time to Kabul to make a documentary about the development and progress of Afghanistan’s burgeoning women’s cycling team. As of today they’re nearly halfway to their initial $10,000 funding goal, which will allow them to kick this project off by covering travel costs, translator and fixer fees and initial filming costs.

For more information on the project please visit their Kickstarter page and consider making a donation to this important cause.

If ever there was a cause that embodies the Cyclofemme values of “pedaling for a positive social change” and “starting the revolution” (sign the pledge!), this is it. We must pedal our bikes, yes. And we must get others to pedal their bikes with us – but we must also stay vigilant and keep fighting for those who aren’t allowed to pedal bikes at all.

PS: Galpin has been collecting gear that she will take to the team. If you would like to donate gear, learn more about what is needed or inquire about other ways to help, please contact her using the contact information here.


8 Responses to “This is Worth Your Time: Support the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team”

  1. [...] the Afhan Women’s Cycling Team. It is culturally offensive for a woman to ride a bike in Afghanistan. Forget “feeling left out [...]

  2. chr15 says:

    Religious and cultural boundaries aside, how can riding a bike be offensive to the point of illegality or intolerance by one’s own kind.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We know about some of the problems in Afghanistan from the news yet, we don’t necessarily appreciate how pervasive in to what we would consider innocous day to day activities Afghan culture is.

    Once again [hopefully] the bicycle is a symbol of (r)evolution.

  3. [...] place finish to come in seventh despite a snow-crusted helmet. The Afghan women’s cycling team fights for their right to ride in public, let alone compete. A Malawi driver kills three members of the same family walking along a roadway; [...]

  4. What a great story! There are many cultures where bike-riding by women is shunned upon. How wonderful to see Afghan girls and women poke their heads above the fray (again!!) to demonstrate the possible. Bold and Brave. Liberating!


  5. Ben S. says:

    thank you for posting about this!

  6. Michael Smith says:

    I fear the Taliban will place IED’s on their routes to discourage this. If they ride the same training routes, they would be well advised to change their routine daily. Great show of courage on these ladies part.

  7. [...] cycling for women really is about freedom and human rights.  If you only click one link, read this article about the Afghanistan women’s cycling team, and if you can, please support the film being [...]

  8. heather says:

    It’s a great idea, love the idea of getting women and girls on bikes especially in oppressive cultures, but they will face real opposition, danger and risks that I do not think we in the west can even contemplate. It’s great for us to want to help, but you have to consider contexts and the day to day safety of women. Take the case of the woman in Tunisia who was inspired by Femen and posted topless photos and is now in hiding, truly afraid for her life. Cycling is a way to get around, but, not allowing women on bikes is a way to keep them powerless. Is this project about transportation cycling or sporty cycling? Is there even sporty cycling for men in Afghanistan? What about all the land mines that daily injure many people? Millions have lost limbs, and I recently read an article written by a british photojournalist who had stepped on a land mine, lost both his legs, one arm and other extensive injuries. He recovered, got artificial limbs and went back to finish the story he was working on. Heart warming and all, but highlights the dangers.
    My concern that well meaning projects like this totally disregard real risks. I’d feel much better about supporting a project that provides women a safe place to ride-be it a secret velodrome, or cross country/bmx park where they can train safely until things change.