Trailblazing Afghan women run in mixed-gender marathon

Photo credit: Free to Run 2017. A race organized by Free to Run.

TMP – 04/12/2017

Over 200 trailblazing women in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province are defying the restrictions of conservative and traditional norms by participating in a marathon and running alongside men.

The women risk insults and stones thrown at them by some countrymen who don’t believe that women should take part in such a sporting event.
Asked by NBC News about her motivation to participate, 21-year-old Raihana says that by doing marathons she is pursuing her freedom.

“[Women are told] they should wash the dishes; they should [raise] the children. I didn’t like it because when I saw the boys, they were very free,” Raihana said.
Raihana trains in a female running group, which is organized by ‘Free to Run’, a non-profit organization established three years ago. ‘Free to Run’ organizes pickups with unmarked vans for keen runners, who are taken in secret to safe places where they can train without fear.

“What we are doing is about so much more than sports. It is about empowerment and change,” said runner and human rights lawyer Stephanie Case who first established Free to Run.

The runners set goals and also learn new skills like skating, cycling and simple repair skills. The Free to Run women are not running for any medals but to prove that they can do whatever boys can do.

“I accept that I am a girl but I can go everywhere and I can be free,” said Raihanna.