Skateistan: How Skateboarding Changed People’s Lives In Afghanistan

Skateistan is a global non-profit organization founded by Oliver Percovich. He visited Kabul in February 2007 and brought his skateboard with him. “When I got there, I didn’t see any girls playing soccer or any other sports,” Percovich said in “The State of Skate” by PUSH. “They weren’t doing activities that were appropriate for girls.” Locals, especially children, saw the skateboard and were intrigued as they have never seen one before. “When kids saw us skateboarding they wanted it to then try it.”

Over 1600 youth, aged 5-17, attend the Skateistan schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa. More than 40% of the students are girls. Getting girls to skateboard has been Skateistan’s priority since the beginning. Gender-based inequality is an important social issue Skateistan wants to address. There has been a stereotype hanging around skateboarding as it’s only for boys. Skateboarding is for every gender and age. It is one of the best types of education you can get. Skateboarding helps to overcome your fears, confidence, and how to be creative with your ideas.

“Skateistan is the epitome of what skating is all about. I honestly share in the excitement those kids feel.” – Tony Hawk, pro skateboarder and Skateistan Ambassador

Skateboarding can be practiced anywhere when there is a smooth surface; it brings young people together to be active and communicative. While the female scene in the skateboard community is growing around the globe, Afghanistan continues to have the highest rate of female skateboarders in the world. Thanks to skateboarding, it brings the girls’ confidence levels up.

“Girls should play sport. It’s good for health and can help them to build their confidence and be brave,” explains Sikha, a Skateistan student. “I’m a girl but I can skate the same as a boy, and better than the boys sometimes. I would like to tell all girls around the world don’t look down on yourself. We have to stand and be strong for our future.”

You can get involved with the Skateistan community, even if you’re not a skateboarder. You can donate or become a Skateistan citizen.

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Nak J. Blaauw
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Nak is a 17-year-old living in Singapore. Born in Cambodia, raised by Dutch parents. Other than writing she enjoys reading, art, listening to Radiohead, Grime music and travelling. You can find her on Instagram @nakjblaauw

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