Afghan women in sports is not a new development. Afghan women have been participating in sports even before the Mujahideen started war. There were many women’s teams in volleyball, basketball and football matches. But unfortunately as civil war took over the nation and was followed by the dark time of Taliban, it set a negative environment for women. Their participation in arts, literature, culture, economic, social, politics and sports was dismissed and referred to as shame and infamy. They were kept deprived of their rights for a really long time. For example, during the Taliban years, sports in general was discouraged and playgrounds were left in shambles.
But a lot has changed since then. After the collapse of the Taliban, the atmosphere become much better and the Afghan society is now more open to the women. We are now witness to volleyball tournaments in different parts of Afghanistan that see the active participation of women.
For instance, in Jaghuri district of Ghazni province which is notorious for its security issues and Taliban control, has over the last three years seen several tournaments between girls. Despite the looming dangers, girls in Jaghuri have participated in volleyball and basketball tournaments demonstrating courage and true sportsmanship.
Mrs. Shamim Yakubi, principal of Shohada Girl School in Jaghrui informs Paiwandgah, “In the past, we had traditional games on curricula, but three years ago women volleyball was officially started in Jaghuri province.”
She further narrates, “About two years ago, an engineer named Aqili came from Kabul to Shohada Girl School in Sangimasha, the center of Jaghori, and he saw the girls playing volleyball.” Engineer Aqili brought this news back with him to Kabul and the officials in the US Embassy welcomed this initiative. As a result, three playgrounds were constructed in Jaghuri. They also provided us with balls, nets and other equipments.
The building of these playgrounds encouraged many more girls to participate in the district. Four volleyball teams were set up and many friendly tournaments were conducted across Jaghuri.
These sport were welcomed by girls and soon gained popularity in this district. As of today, Jaghuri has 13 volleyball teams. Yakubi says “We have spring and autumn tournaments. Haidar Abad team from Ghazni city and a team from Malistan district recently came to Jaghuri for competitive tournaments. All the girls like to participate in volleyball.”
Talking about expanding this initiative into other sports, Yakubi adds,“The girls are interested in playing basketballs and football as well, but we do not have female trainers for them.” But, unofficially though, sometimes, men trainers teach the girls.
On subject of social taboos, she says “Girls do not have problem playing in the school but for the tournaments held outside, we have the consensus of their families; and men are not allowed to watch the matches.”
But the path to this development has been arduous. Yakubi informs that prior to 2001 such activities were not welcomed. “We would receive warning letters from Mullahs saying that sports were not Islamic,” she narrates.
While the neigboring district of Gilan has 6-8 high schools, Jaghuri proudly boasts of 40 high schools, and about 50 primary and secondary schools. Thousands of students from this district participate in the university exams each year.
Yakubi says she is hopeful of the future. “I hope to be able to send female players into the society someday, to show to the world, that beside education, these girls can be fine sportspersons too,” she adds in conclusion.