Marrying underage girls for dowry is a common practice in Afghanistan. For this reason, girls need ways of expressing themselves and identifying their strengths. In Afghanistan, girls suffer from discrimination in sports because the view is that girls’ sports are in conflict with the roles of wife and mother. However, sport helps to improve the physical well-being of girls, teaches them life-management skills and makes them more confident of their own abilities. Afghanistan needs successful female athletes as role models for girls.
In 2017 Finland was the only donor country supporting girls’ sports in Afghanistan. In the project, three hundred girls in upper grades of primary education and secondary education took part in twice-weekly football, volleyball or karate classes. Gymnastics and long-distance running were offered as new sports. The girls are enthusiastic about their new leisure activity and say that the training has improved their physical condition. The sports provide the girls with skills and self-confidence, which help them to reach higher education and receive work.
Picture: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, graphics: Juho Hiilivirta