Riding a bicycle is seen as a rite of passage for most children and a recreational tool for many adults, but for a group of women in Afghanistan, it is a vehicle towards equality.
For members of Afghanistan’s Women’s National Cycling Team, bicycling has been a way of forcing their society to look at how men speak and act towards them. While treatment of Afghan women has gotten better more recently, they are still subject to inequality. For one of the riders of the team, Marjan Siddiqi, biking has provided her a way to escape restrictions imposed on women daily. Marjan and her team ride their bikes on the streets in spite of being verbally insulted and physically attacked by those they ride past. For this team whose goal is to be in the Olympics, these obstacles have not hindered them from continuing to ride. Their commitment has become an inspiration for another rider, Shannon Galpin, who created a documentary, “Afghan Cycles”, chronicling the team’s journey.
I learned to ride a bicycle as a teenager for mobility and recreation, not as an instrument to battle inequality. Looking back, it took me a few tries to get the hang of riding a bike, but there was no immediacy or necessity. Once I eventually learned how to ride, I felt empowered and free but I’m certain that my experience is unlike what these women go through. For these women who ride past bystanders and endure the constant abuse, they have become a symbol to those who continue to fight for equal rights.
It is amazing that a common activity like riding a bike has spurred a movement that is making a difference for women and girls in Afghanistan. It is my hope that they continue to ride and inspire countless women and girls to fight for their rights regardless of obstacles they encounter. That’s my view on this, what’s yours?
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