Afghanistan hosted an international marathon this month- the first marathon ever to be held in the country. Among the runners were several brave women, paving the way for women and girls.
The marathon was held in Bamyan province, located in central Afghanistan. More than 60 amateur and professional runners participated, including people from the United States and Canada, as well as runners from Afghanistan. Although about a dozen local schoolgirls participated in the shorter 10 kilometer race, only one Afghan woman ran the entire marathon.
Zainab, who is 25, spoke out about the her experience running in the marathon and the backlash she faced. “It is not easy for a woman to leave the house by herself, let alone running outside,” Zainab said, admitting that she faced a lot of street harassment during the year she spent training for this event.
“The children were stoning us, people shouted bad words like ‘prostitute’, [asked her] ‘why you don’t stay at home?'” But Zainab insists that her resolve was not shaken. She says that she hopes more young girls are encouraged to take up running.
“I have plans for the future- I have goals,” Zainab said. She spoke of her time visiting women in colleges in Afghanistan, “The girls- all of them are really quiet, and they don’t laugh. I invited them to laugh, to be happy.”
Afghan women have participated in marathons in foreign countries before, but this was the first time an Afghan woman ran in a marathon within her own country. The organizers hope that programs like this will show another side of Afghanistan in the media. Zainab is hopeful as well:
“I think little by little, I’ll bring change.”
Media Resources: Radio Free Europe 10/29/15; RH Reality Check 10/28/15; The Guardian 10/25/15;