Sixteen girls gathered around on a dusty playground in Fayab Province at Mullah Kareem Nazar School. In spite of the sun beaming down, the temperature was still a bit chilly. Bubbling with enthusiasm, these girls were about to embark on a revolutionary endeavor in Afghanistan. They are part of a girls’ volleyball team at their school. In a country where women and girls have minimal freedom to leave their home, these sixteen girls are out on a field participating in a physically competitive sport. To many, this team could be considered a sign of a new era. The principal at Mullah Kareem Nazar School, Mohammad Ayob said, “not only is this team important to maintain healthy physical conditions for girls, but it will also help future growth.” Mohammad added that as the importance for literacy spreads and more become literate, the importance of sports and competition will be more appreciated.
Afghanistan still has a long way to go to realize Mohammad’s vision and values. There is plenty of opposition from parents concerning the formation of a competitive girls’ sports team. One of the fathers of a student said “It is important for girls to be literate, but playing the volleyball is for boys, not for girls.” He added, “Also our society does not accept girls’ sports teams, I think our values forbid girls from playing sports.” Yet, there are also fathers that fully support the team. Aziz Ulla, one such father, said, “ThisCut is really great for my daughter, because previous to this she couldn’t even play at the park and physical activities are important to one’s health.” Within this spectrum of thoughts and concerns, the only thing certain is that this team is definitely a controversial idea.
But most importantly, the girls themselves are thrilled to learn a new skill that neither their former nor their present female classmates have had the opportunity to learn. Ramzia, a 14-year old student has always been interested in volleyball. Therefore, when the occasion to join a team presented itself, Ramzia jumped at the opportunity. Luckily for Ramzia, she made the team. Overjoyed, she claimed, “I felt intelligent and capable. I now pay more attention in classes and look forwarded to playing volleyball.” Ramzia is a great athlete and dedicated to the sport. As passer for the team she says she enjoys playing with her teammates, and volleyball in general. She claims, “I frankly don’t realize how the time passes when we are playing.” Ramzia is just one of many girls who view volleyball as a new and exciting outlet for growth.
As small of a step as starting a volleyball team may seem, it’s an important sign of change. Girls like Ramzia, who are future leaders and decision makers, will now see the importance of developing skills that society may question. The hope is to cultivate change and lessen gender disparity. In Ramzia’s words, “As a female, I now feel courageous.” Perhaps this new-found courage can aid young girls in bridging the gaps of gender disparity and forging a new role for women in their society.